Christchurch quake anniversary : recalling the ugly, considering the future

 Taken from the Port Hills overlookingChristchurch when the quake hit.

As New Zealanders remember the earthquake of 22nd February a year ago, a range of media have covered many aspects of the event. Here I attempt to summarise some of my own thoughts and facts… 

*** Quake factsheet at my re-launched Learn From Nature blog | follow me at twitter

Just as Christchurch was beginning to recover from the huge impact of 4 September 2010 earthquake, a massive aftershock delivered an even more deadly and destructive blow to the city. News reports of the Anglican Cathedral without its characteristic tower, flashed across the internet and newspapers. In January, NAEE co-chair Henricus Peters visited his family who lives there to see the city for himself.

Out of sight, out of mind. Such folly, as we all know now, when it comes to nature. Many Cantabrians probably thought a major earthquake would not happen in their lifetime, despite occasional warnings from scientists, council planners, engineers, and Civil Defence workers that there was still a good chance it would.

The threat was, it was thought, might be from the Alpine Fault, which runs through the western spine of the South Island. Instead, it was hidden or ‘blind’ faults, under the Canterbury Plains. What happened on Saturday 4 September 2010 at 4.35am and continued on Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12.51pm, proved to be damaging …. Canterbury’s fertile plains are the result of millions of years of mountain building, glaciation and river action. These deposits masked the greywacke bedrock with its tell-tale splinters and cracks resulting from the pressure of the colliding Australian and Pacific tectonic plates [1].

Vast amounts of energy were released in the first few hours of 22 February, changing the shape of Christchurch. The Port Hills are 40 cm taller in places, and Port of Lyttelton is now several centimetres closer to the city.

Everyone has been affected by this natural disaster, turned human disaster for all those who have lost loved ones and property. Schools are sharing premises, since of their locations has been devastated and is now ‘red zoned’ – cannot be occupied.

182 people died as a result of 22 February. This was because a shaken city was now rocked and people were inside these already-affected structures.

21 – the number of earthquakes exceeding magnitude 5 since 4 September

247 – number of earthquakes exceeding magnitude 4 since 4 September

6016 – number of earthquakes detected in Canterbury since 4 September

563 million – number of hits on GeoNet in the six days after 4 September

Christchurch has been presented with a rare opportunity. We have the chance to build a better city. Christ’s College [2], where my brother teaches, has lost a large number of buildings. They are now designing far better, more sustainable premises, which will benefit future generations of students.

Acknowledgements: 1. ‘Earthquake’ by Chris Moore; The Press.  2.

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