Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christchurch Destroyed by Earthquake

That phrase keeps going through my head, as though if I say it enough times it'll finally make sense to me. I don't know if it ever will. Driving around yesterday, I couldn't help but think of it as I saw the diggers at construction sites in my neighborhood. Even eating a licorice allsort which got a bit squashed in the post, I was reminded of the compacted floors of the the PG building.

Destroyed? I keep seeing the pictures and video and can't believe it. They will re-build though!

Christchurch? Even after the last one, that's what people were asking. Everyone expected it to be Wellington. It seems so illogical now to think that, after all, the whole country is prone to earthquakes, and some of the biggest have been in the South Island. Why were we so concerned about Wellington? Probably because of the the 8.2 earthquake in the Wairarapa in 1855 that helped along the process of land reclamation at Wellington Harbor, and turned Basin lake into a cricket ground. Then there was a 7.2 quake there in 1942, and these quakes plus concern about the hilly terrain and risk of landslides made people focus on the scale of destruction that seemed due if 'the big one' hit Wellington.

But the South Island has had its share of big ones too, including the 7.8 Fiordland quake in 2009, and several on the West Coast including a 7.0 in 1968 (Inangahua) and the Murchison quake of 1929 (7.8). Biggies in the North Island include Gisborne in 2007 (6.8), Edgecumbe in 1987 (6.3) and of course, our greatest natural disaster to date, the Napier earthquake of 1931 (7.9) with a death toll of 256.

You'll note ALL of these are larger than Tuesday's quake in Christchurch. We can blame the depth, the distance (very close to the CBD) and the type of soil, and also Tuesday's quake was just the biggest in a long series of after-shocks from last September's 7.1 quake in Christchurch, and a lot of the building collapses can be put down to weakening from that quake, and all the others that followed. I was so proud of us, as a country, with the zero death toll from that huge quake, of our earthquake-proofing, and disaster response. It's such a blow to realize that we are indeed vulnerable as well; Mother Nature won.

Today will be a tough day, I think, as the death toll mounts, and as names are released, and faces and histories become known.

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