View Full Version : Earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand

February 22nd, 2011, 06:22 AM
One of my work colleagues comes from Christchurch and has a house, pets and family there. He was remarkably outwardly calm considering the circumstances.

Scores Killed in New Zealand Earthquake


Rescue workers searched for survivors through debris in Christchurch, New Zealand,
after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake.



SYDNEY, Australia — Residents of Christchurch braced for a tense night after a powerful earthquake struck New Zealand’s second-largest city during the busy lunchtime rush on Tuesday, killing scores of people, flattening office buildings, destroying homes and leaving large swathes of the city without electricity and running water.

Prime Minister John Key said that at least 65 people were confirmed dead in the 6.3-magnitude quake. “We may be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day,” Mr. Key told 3 News New Zealand, warning that the death toll could rise significantly.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said a state of emergency had been declared and that he had ordered the evacuation of the city center. Speaking Tuesday night on the Australian television network ABC News, Mr. Parker said the focus overnight would be on rescuing an unknown number of people believed trapped under the rubble. He called the situation “extremely grave.”

“It’s not going to be pretty, we need to steel ourselves for what we will wake up to on Wednesday,” he said.

Temporary shelters across the city had been opened for the public, Mr. Parker said, and he urged city residents to prepare for a night without electricity and running water. Food and drinking water was being brought into the city overnight, he said.

The search and rescue mission was being further complicated by repeated strong aftershocks, officials said.

“Government agencies and emergency services are still putting together a picture of the damage,” New Zealand’s deputy prime minister, Bill English, told reporters in the capital, Wellington.

Mr. English and the civil defense minister, John Carter, said that Christchurch’s main hospital, which sustained minimal damage, was preparing for multiple casualties. Some victims had already been airlifted to hospitals outside the earthquake zone.

The Christchurch Airport was closed and said on its Web site that it would reopen Wednesday morning only for domestic flights. Triage centers were set up across the city to cope with the influx of casualties. By Tuesday afternoon, officials said there were no ambulances available in the city, all were tied up with emergency calls.

Photographs and video from Christchurch, which has a metropolitan area of nearly 400,00 residents, showed people running through the streets, massive landslides pouring rocks and debris into suburban streets and extensive damage to buildings. Witnesses told of watching the spire of the iconic Christchurch Cathedral come crashing down during an aftershock. One witness called it “the most frightening thing of my entire life,” And television footage showed a person clinging to a window in the cathedral’s steeple.

Television footage from the scene by 3 News New Zealand showed emergency crews pulling shaken and injured victims from the stricken buildings, including one four-storey structure, the Pine Gould Guinness building, that was nearly flattened. The top three floors of the building, a 1960s-era structure, had collapsed as terrified workers huddled under desks. Video showed one woman clinging to the roof of the building as emergency workers raised a crane to rescue her.

“There was a guy on the second floor who was buried up to his waist in concrete and stuff,” one man, who escaped the Pine Gould building, told 3 News. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The quake hit the country’s South Island just before 1 p.m. local time. The tremor was just the latest in a series of large earthquakes to strike in recent months. In September, a magnitude 7.1 quake rocked the same area (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/09/03/world/asia/new-zealand-earthquake.html), but caused no casualties.

The United States Geological Survey said Tuesday’s initial 6.3-magnitude quake was followed by various aftershocks, and itself was part of an aftershock sequence from last September’s quake.

“There is more substantial damage to buildings than there was during the original earthquake,” Mr. Carter said. Tuesday’s tremor was centered about six miles from downtown Christchurch, and was only about three miles underground, possibly making it more destructive.

Several news outlets reported extensive devastation to the nearby town of Lyttelton, nearest the epicenter of the quake, but there were no immediate pictures from the scene.

“The earthquake itself was quite violent, a lot of movement,” said Jason Tweedie, a 40-year-old Christchurch resident who was sitting in his four-wheel drive vehicle when the quake struck. “It felt like there were about 10 people shaking the side of it, all at once, it was so much force.”

The force of the quake pushed thousands of gallons of water and silt into the streets, Mr. Tweedie said, and in some places the road appeared to open up and swallow several cars in his beachside neighborhood of New Brighton.

Julian Sanderson was in his apartment on the first floor of an old brick movie theater when the walls and ceiling began to crumble around him.

“When it all stopped, I had to kick out the front door to get out,” Mr. Sanderson, 41, said by telephone, standing in front of his nearly collapsed building. “I used to work in that building making furniture, but everything has just changed. What we have now is the clothes that we’re wearing.”



February 22nd, 2011, 08:07 AM
Looking at the vid and some of the pics, it is interesting to see which buildings were hit the hardest.

the one in the vid, the red brick and the blue masonry building, had little if any reinforcement in the walls (no bars left sticking out from a collapsed wall section). Unreinforced masonry is a deathtrap in an earthquake.

I am confused about that 1970's building though, the one with the collapsed parking area. It looks like it had a bit of support instability on the parking area and a soft story right above the area. When things shook, they toppled on top of the lower floors (the first floor looks like it is still standing).

I am curious to see what they find when they look at the actual ground motion record of this event, if it was something like the Northridge quake that had more of a vertical component than what was previously being designed for causing "new" damage and design failure types, or if this was simply the result of toppling buildings that were already weakened by the 7.1.....

February 22nd, 2011, 09:01 AM
The latter, I would think. They've been experiencing many aftershocks since the 7.1, some over 5. Today's event was apparently technically another aftershock.

February 22nd, 2011, 11:33 PM
They're now saying that one of the largest buildings in Christchurch, the Hotel Grand Chancellor, is on the verge of collapse after the latest aftershock. 26 stories tall.

February 23rd, 2011, 04:10 AM
My work colleague lost two friends :(.