Videos World — 24 February 2011

The 2011 Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand is a national disaster for the country. It is the worst natural disaster they have ever experienced.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, said that the emergency response in the area is now focusing on recovering the dead. However, the Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, says they are not giving up yet. Rescuers are still searching a few places across the city in hope that someone may still be alive.

The death toll has risen to 98, and John Key says it will certainly rise further. There are still people in hospital under intensive care, and more than 226 people missing. Many will be under rubble in collapsed buildings across the city. At least 120 people have been rescued so far, but hopes for the others gets dimmer every hour.

Today is day three of the earthquake that turned the Canterbury district of Christchurch, New Zealand, into something that looks like a war zone.

This 6.3 magnitude earthquake comes five months after a bigger earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, which did less damage but killed no-one on September 4, 2010. The difference is that the earlier quake was further away and 30 miles deep. This quake was very close and only three miles below Christchurch, which is New Zealand’s oldest city.

The devastated Canterbury area has been cordoned off by New Zealand defence force personnel who are helping local police keep sightseers and would-be looters out of the area. There will also a curfew at nightfall each evening until dawn the next day.

Australia has already promised to send 300 police officers to New Zealand to give exhausted local officers a rest. Most have been working day and night since the quake hit.

A curfew was imposed in the Canterbury area of Christchurch last night, and much of the area looked like a ghost town with rubble in the street and 80 percent of the area’s buildings without power. There has been extensive damage to the city’s infrastructure.

Pipes carrying gas, water and sewerage have ruptured and underground power and communications cables have been severed all over the place. Replacing them will be a complex and expensive project.

As water supplies are contaminated, many people are having to queue for water from public standpipes. Water tankers may be called in, and residents have been told not to flush their toilets since the underground pipes are broken. They will have to use buckets until enough portaloos (portable toilets) have been brought in to provide emergency sanitation.

People have also been told to boil all water for at least three minutes before they drink it.

Emergency services services have been working all night searching through the debris of destroyed office blocks, searching for survivors and rescuing two people overnight – a man and a women. The man was carried out on a stretcher, but amazingly, the woman was able to walk out unassisted once firemen removed the rubble that had trapped her.

About 300 rescue specialists are headed to Christchurch from Australia’s Northern Territory, the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. Teams from New South Wales and Queensland are already in Christchurch.

Two hundred members of the NZ Defence Forces are helping NZ police lock down and patrol the area.  Several hundred engineers are also in the city, because many had been inspecting damage from last year’s earthquake. They are now helping check which buildings are likely to fall down.

There is also a very real danger of further aftershocks. Small tremors are happening dozens of times a day, setting off alarms which have rescuers running into the street in case the rubble they are searching through collapses further. Then, when the site is checked, the rescuers return to their task.

Many of the already-damaged buildings are likely to fall down. One very unstable building, with big cracks visible from the street, is the 27-storey Grand Chancellor Hotel. It is right next to the destroyed CTV Building where more than 100 people have been entombed. Many the victims were Asian students who had been studying at an English language school in the building.


About Author

David Harvey, Editor

David Harvey left school at 17 and went straight into newspapers as a cadet reporter. (He also a keen photographer and learned both trades.) He worked as a photojournalist in Hong Kong and as a war correspondent in Vietnam during the war. He moved to Australia in the late 1970s and got involved in I.T. during the mid-80s. This website is his latest venture here, combining news-gathering with the power of the internet. See: news-reporter

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