About the Quake
On February 22nd 2011 the city of Christchurch was hit by 6.3 earthquake which devastated the city; over 160 people have lost their lives and there are still over 50 people missing. The 6.3-magnitude quake struck at lunchtime, when streets and shops in New Zealand's second largest city were packed and offices were occupied. Christchurch was hit last September by a 7.1 magnitude quake that damaged buildings but caused no deaths. This time the quake was deadly as it was much shallower and closer to the city. Emergency crews working under floodlights risked their lives to raise parts of the Canterbury Television building to allow colleagues to look for survivors; helicopters dumped giant buckets of water to try to douse a fire in a tall office building; and a crane helped rescue workers trapped in another office block.
The Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, told local radio that up to 200 people could be trapped but later lowered the number to nearer 100. It was the country's worst natural disaster since a 1931 quake in the North Island city of Napier killed 256. "There will be deaths, there will be a lot of injuries, there will be a lot of heartbreak in this city," Parker told Australian TV. Hundreds of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared throughout Christchurch in the aftermath of the quake. The tremor, centred three miles (4.8km) from the city, occurred at the relatively shallow depth of 2.5 miles.
After rushing to the city within hours of the quake, the prime minister, John Key, said the death toll was 65 and may rise. "It is just a scene of utter devastation," he said. "We may well be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day." The Queen expressed her shock in a message to the prime minister: "Please convey my deep sympathy to the families and friends of those who have been killed; my thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this dreadful event. My thoughts are also with the emergency services and everyone who is assisting in the rescue efforts."
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has now said 10,000 homes in Christchurch cannot be rebuilt after the 22 February earthquake. He also announced a National Memorial Day of 18 March, wiht a public holiday and a memorial service was held in Christchurch's Hagley Park with Prince William in attendance on behalf of the Queen. On Sunday the treasury department said that quake recovery would cost the country NZ$15bn ($11bn; £7bn). The death toll, at 166 so far, is expected to rise to around 200 as rescue work continues. Rescue workers were relieved to find no dead in the rubble of the collapsed tower of Christchurch Cathedral; they had earlier pulled about 90 bodies from the Canterbury TV building.
Victims are being identified using fingerprints, DNA, dental records and other personal items such as jewellery. The painstaking process could take months to complete, officials say, adding to the misery of relatives waiting for news. Experts say there were cases after previous disasters and accidents overseas where the wrong body was returned to the family, compounding the grief of everyone involved. To avoid such traumatic mistakes, the authorities in New Zealand insist their work will be meticulous. Even after these dramatic events in the last days the citizens of Christchurch are still in good spirits and working together to get the area of Canterbury back on its feet.