Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christchurch earthquake

ChCh Cathedral

A Monday post, It all suxs, will give you a feel for the close relations between Australia and New Zealand. Australians as well as New Zealanders feel a sense of shock at the latest Christchurch earthquake.

The damage done to Christchurch and surrounds by the earthquake is quite profound. This photo shows the historic Anglican Cathedral in the centre of the city.

For those who don't know Christchurch, it is New Zealand's second largest city by population after Auckland, with a population of  339,000. I actually thought that it was third after Wellington.

The city lies at the edge of the Canterbury Plains on the eastern side of New Zealand's South Island. The plains stretch away to the spectacular New Zealand Alps in the distance.

In 1906, my paternal grandparents emigrated to Canterbury from Lancashire in England.

After working in various jobs, Grandfather Belshaw became a Primitive Methodist Home Missionary in Christchurch. My father, the youngest, was born in Canterbury. All three kids went to school in Christchurch.

Provincial Council Building Christchurch is a beautiful city whose central district was planned on similar lines to Adelaide.

The next photo from the New Zealand Herald shows the remains of the historic Canterbury Provincial Council building.

Originally the New Zealand provinces had their own parliaments. This was the Canterbury Parliament. It's not a large building, but was an attractive one popular with tourist. The building featured as the site of the inquiry in Desmond Bagley's 1975 avalanche disaster thriller, the Snow Tiger.

Christchurch is a popular tourist destination in its own right and as a stepping off point for those visiting the South Island; the city has an international airport. It is also a major conference centre. I have been there many times as a tourist, on marketing trips or to attend conferences.

New Zealand draws backpackers from around the world.Hotel Stonehurst

The next photo, also from the New Zealand Herald, shows the remains of the Hotel Stonehurst, popular with backpackers.

Measured by the Richter scale, this was a smaller earthquake than the one that occurred last September. However, it was closer to the surface, increasing the destructive power on buildings already weakened from the previous quake.

This quake also occurred in the middle of the day when central Christchurch was packed with shoppers, workers and visitors. More buildings were brought down including a modern office block, while falling rubble hit buses, cars and pedestrians.

Casualty figures are still unknown, but could be as high as 200.

The final photo from the New Zealand Herald shows the Catholic Cathedral. The scenes are reminiscent of World War II bombing damage.ChCh Catholic Cathedral

New Zealand is a well organised country, but it is also a small country, stretching resources. Australia is relatively close and can therefore respond quickly.  The country has also had experience in responding quickly to disasters such as the Padang quake.

ABC news reports that the first 40 specialists, along with rescue equipment and supplies, left last night from the RAAF base at Richmond, in Sydney's north-west, aboard a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. In all, 148 Urban Search and Rescue specialists are now being sent.

"These rescue teams are experts at recovering people who are trapped or affected by structural collapse and consist of highly-trained emergency services workers, doctors, engineers and search dogs," Mr McClelland said.

"They have expert search, rescue, medical, engineering and support capabilities."

The impact on the people of Christchurch of the quake has been severe, more so because it came on top of the previous quake and all the subsequent aftershocks.

As so often happens, there have been remarkable stories of people responding on the ground with immediate action to help others despite the shock. I do find the human spirit a remarkable thing.  


On Skepticslaywers, DeusExMacintosh in Christchurch Earthquake: Please Give Generously provided information for Kiwis who wished to donate. In Australia, I know that at least the Red Cross has an appeal underway.

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