A horrible catastrophe has just struck New Zealand (February 22, 2011). A 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand’s 2nd-most-populated city, Christchurch (population: 350,000). Striking in the middle of a busy weekday afternoon, at least 65 have been killed and many more have been trapped or suffering.
The city’s iconic stone Christchurch Cathedral was damaged by the quake, with its spire falling into a central city square. Buses have been crushed under falling buildings. Roads and sidewalks have been split, burst pipes are flooding others, people are stuck in office buildings, fires have been started, and the city is reportedly in chaos with residents disoriented, struggling to survive, and scared.
“Make no mistake — this is going to be a very black day for this shaken city,” Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said.
“When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust,” said city councilman Barry Corbett, who was also on a top floor of the city council building at the time the quake struck. “It was evident straight away that a lot of buildings had gone.”
“It is just a scene of utter devastation,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who quickly came to the city following the quake and has announced that at least 65 people are dead, said. “We may well be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day.”
“The government is willing to throw everything it can in the rescue effort,” Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said. “Time is going to be of essence.”
Multi-Story Buildings Collapsing from Quake, Workers Trapped & Possibly Killed
“We watched the cathedral collapse out our window while we were holding onto the walls,” Gary Moore, an office worker stuck with over a dozen other people on the 12th floor of an office building, said. “Every aftershock sends us rushing under the desks. It’s very unnerving but we can clearly see there are other priorities out the window. There has been a lot of damage and I guess people are attending to that before they come and get us.”
The huge Pyne Gould Guinness Building, which houses more than 200 workers, has reportedly collapsed with numerous workers trapped inside and some perhaps killed (picture of the building above).
“24 people were trapped on the 17th floor of the 19-story Forsyth Barr office building,” with the building in decent shape but a stairwell in it collapsing. Rescuers accessed the building with a large crane and pulled people out of the building one-by-one.
“I rang my kids to say goodbye,” said Ann Voss, one resident trapped in an office building who was interviewed by TV3 from underneath her desk. “It was absolutely horrible. My daughter was crying and I was crying because I honestly thought that was it. You know, you want to tell them you love them don’t you?”
Earthquake Knocks 30 Million Tons of Country’s Largest Glacier
In addition to the clear human damage this earthquake is causing, it has also knocked a tremendous 30 million tons of ice off Tasman Glacier, the country’s largest glacier, which sits in Aoraki Mountain Cook National Park on the edge of Terminal Lake about 120 miles (or 193 kilometers) from where this 2011 earthquake struck.
Recent Earthquakes in Christchurch
Christchurch has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks in recent months, following a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on September 4th, and earthquake that caused $4 billion NZD in damage. But no deaths had occurred until today. Sadly, with the city being struck hard in the middle of a normal weekday, that is no longer the case.
New Zealand’s worst earthquake to date was in 1931. It struck Hawke’s Bay on the country’s North Island and killed at least 256 people.
This quake today is truly one of the worst natural disasters in New Zealand’s history and we can only hope it is not as bad as that one was. I send my compassion and concern to all living there and all friends and family members of the residents. I hope you will, too.
All photos via flickr user Klim Andreev