Monday, 15 August 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

We haven't written much about the earthquakes in Christchurch.  A small aftershock which shook our bed yesterday at 5:13 a.m. reminded us we should let others know some about the events here.

Christchurch is approaching the 1 year anniversary since the first earthquake on September 4, 2010.  It's been almost 5 months since the devastating aftershock on February 22, 2011, when 181 people lost their lives.  Another severe aftershock on June 13 further damaged buildings.  We've seen some of the results of the quakes.  Much of the city has chain link fences surrounding buildings or areas, empty lots or piles of bricks are all that remain of some buildings, many houses are empty, brick walls are broken, and many roofs have metal or plastic covering the hole where a chimney should be.  Bus routes and maps are not accurate, the center of town is dark, streets are uneven, some sidewalks have holes in them, and port-a-loos remain on some streets.  TV commercials tell New Zelanders to check on neighbors or to call if they themselves need help coping.

Large parts of the city still show sand on the streets, sidewalks and green areas.  The sand is a a result of liquefaction.  Liquefaction occurs when a quake compacts loose soil and pressurizes the groundwater, which then causes a bubbling up of sand and water that bursts from the ground.

Businesses, museums, and churches were damaged and closed and many will never open.  Many historical buildings were damaged beyond repair.  Other buildings remain closed because of damage to neighboring buildings. Over 5100 houses are in the red zone which means they are in an area in which the ground has been deemed too unstable to live, and those people need to move if they haven't already.  Another 10,000 properties are in the orange zone - they are on hold until further assessment by geo-technical engineers.

After the February quake, water and sewer pipes were so badly damaged that over 30,000 people were required to use chemical toilets and 2900 portable toilets were distributed to city streets.  Now about 1200 portable toilets remain and a few thousand people still have chemical toilets in their houses. 

Despite all this, Christchurch remains a city of friendly and resilient people.  As of this point, the city has mainly been doing emergency response and repair work to water, waste water and storm water pipes, and to roads and bridges, but plans are starting for rebuilding.  Recently a Japanese architect unveiled a plan for building a temporary cathedral out of cardboard tubes - people aren't so sure about that plan though.  Other plans are being revealed for redesigning downtown.

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