It has been a decade since Christchurch, New Zealand suffered an earthquake, causing widespread destruction and the deaths of 185 people. The 25 seconds of horror and the many aftershocks are still vivid in the minds of those that have decided to stay and rebuild.
On 22 February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck New Zealand’s Port Hills, sending a devastating shockwave through the country’s then second-most-populous city, Christchurch. An earthquake the previous September had weakened buildings and infrastructure, so the 2011 tremor’s location, shallow depth and strength caused massive damage.
Buildings collapsed, causing some to catch fire. Among those that fell was the six-storey Canterbury Television building, which housed studios as well as an English language school and medical centre. The majority of the disaster’s 185 casualties – 115 people – were killed when it toppled and burst into flames.
While New Zealanders are used to earthquakes, engineers estimate the level of damaged sustained in the Christchurch disaster was a ‘one-in-2,500-year’ event. Among the many heritage buildings to be damaged or destroyed was the iconic Anglican cathedral in the city centre.
There was also significant liquefaction in the eastern suburbs – a smelly, dirty silt that wells up out of the ground and then dries like concrete. It’s estimated liquefaction brought around 400,000 tonnes of silt into the city.
Superintendent Tom Cooper, one of the leaders of the fire team, described discovering a female survivor who was trapped on the second floor of the collapsed building. It took almost four hours to free the woman, who had been trapped in the building for a total of 22 hours.
The destruction was unlike anything Superintendent Cooper had ever seen.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will on Monday attend a service remembering the victims of the quake and reflect on the 10 years since.
For more information, please visit: www.sbs.com.au/news/christchurch-earthquake-ten-years-on-how-25-seconds-changed-the-city-forever