Saturday, February 26, 2011

My view today on the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake as a local born Canatabrian...

By Peter Petterson

First published at Qondio:

I have been reading and recycling many of the stories about the tragic Christchurch earthquake onto many of my blogsites, but feel the need to make a few comments of my own.

I cry for the city of my birth, childhood and teen years. I have so many memories of Christchurch, at home, school, my early work years, my friends and our fun times. I remember many of the buildings around town which are now just a useless pile of rubble and waste. The most striking memory of all has been that of the iconic gothic style Christchurch Cathedral in the middle of the heart of Christchurch - Cathedral Square. It is virtually destroyed; its spire fell off taking an unknown number of tourists with it. They were perched in the observation balconies.

Elsewhere in the Central Business District, the CBD, a third of all buildings have been totally destroyed or have now been condemned. The Canterbury Television building collapsed and buried an unknown number of people working or visiting there at the time of the earthquake, just a few days ago on Tuesday 22 February. Urban search and rescue experts from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Britain, the United States, Malaysia, China and a number of other countries have been searching around the clock the television building and dozens of other buildings.

As they search the death toll increases, close to 150 as I write here. They dig, move rubble and remains of the buildings, working in eight hour shifts. Something that has not been credited much publicly, but I certainly do so here; is the sheer bravery of these Kiwi and international searchers who could at any moment be victims of these destroyed buildings themselves. Some of the British rescuers were involved in the Haiti earhquake of recent times. Christchurch resembles a war zone - a Beirut.

In the first Christchurch earthquake there were no fatalities and few victims to dig out, because it happened in the early hours of the morning when nearly all New Zealanders and other residents were asleep. This present earthquake has proven so deadly because it happened in the middle of the day - lunchtime for workers, shoppers and people on other business.

Throughout the city in suburbs from all points of the compass, but especially in the eastern suburbs there are stories of people attempting to escape. Some were killed or injured, and others were trapped in their homes. But the triumph of the human spirit has prevailed with neigbours and even strangers stepping out of their own comfort zones to help their fellow human beings. It was the old Kiwi spirit that we thought had gone from the psyche here; but when the chips are really done it rises to the surface just like cream in fresh milk. Some of these people have had no water, food supplies, relying on outside help. There is no sewerage (holes have had to be dug in the back yard), though portaloos are being distributed around the city. The liquefaction which dries out as thick silt, is making driving around the city dangerous and slow. Power is slowly being restored around the city, but with most cables underground it is proving difficult and slow as temporary overhead lines are installed. Help is coming to those in the suburbs. The army is also involved in assistance to householders.

We were worried for our own relatives down south of here of us in Wellington. But despite the loss of electricity messages were able to get through. We were reassured on Facebook that all was well down in Christchurch. Despite the misery and fear of life in Christchurch during these days, they are struggling on through the initial period of recovery from this terrible natural disaster.

I will when I publish this post, return to othe internet sites to learn of further developments. Today is the first Sunday after the quake and many people were able to visit a variety of churches, halls temples and mosques throughout New Zealand to give thanks for the safe delivery of those who survived, to pray for those missing and to remember those who will never return home again. It is no cliche, but we will remember them!

There have been some stories, thankfully few in number, of people who have abused their fellows in a variety of ways, which I won't dwell on here.

Some people have criticised the time it has taken to identify the victims. Maybe in Japan and other countries it (allegedly) takes less time, but in New Zealand all due care and attention is taken to avoid mistaken identities. It really takes as long as it takes!

I will sign off here for now and hope most of the missing are found alive.

A moment in time.

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