Christchurch quake condemns thousands of homes

New Zealand on Tuesday said the latest Christchurch earthquake had killed one man and also confirmed fears that thousands of homes in the city would have to be abandoned.

As Christchurch began the all-too familiar routine of cleaning up after its third major quake in nine months, Prime Minister John Key said the repeated seismic pounding had made the land in some areas too unstable to rebuild on.

“There are certainly in the order of thousands of homes that are affected,” Key told reporters in Christchurch after assessing the damage from Monday’s 6.0-magnitude tremor.

As aftershocks of up to 4.2 continued to rock the city on Tuesday, Key said the quake exacerbated land damage caused after a devastating 6.3 jolt in February that killed 181 people and another 7.0-tremor in September.

“We now have a reasonably clear picture about what land won’t be able to be rebuilt on,” he said, adding residents would be informed whether they had to abandon their properties after payout options had been finalised with insurers.


Monday’s quake opened up sinkholes in roads, burst water mains and toppled already weakened buildings in the city centre.

‘Rough night’
In what mayor Bob Parker described as “a very rough night in the city”, 20 000 homes were without power in the bitter cold and nerves were frayed when an aftershock jolted residents awake at 2.48 am local time on Tuesday.

Parker initially said the city could take comfort in the fact that there were no fatalities, but even that consolation was stripped away when the Canterbury health board confirmed the tremors killed a nursing home resident.

The board said the elderly man died as a direct result of Monday’s quakes but further details were not available.

The number of people injured was also revised up from 10 to 45, two of whom remained in Christchurch Hospital.

Businessman Joe Arts said the latest tremors were a major setback for New Zealand’s second largest city.

“It’s like we’ve gone backwards,” he told Agence France-Presse as he surveyed his city centre printing shop, which was damaged but remained open after September’s quake but has been closed since the February disaster.

“It’s over now, I’ll just wait for the insurance payout.”

At the beachside suburb of Sumner, the wreckage of a house that tumbled down a cliff was cordoned off as work began to stabilise other homes teetering precariously on the edge.

Schools remained closed, elective surgery was cancelled in hospitals and a welfare centre was set up in the suburb of Aranui for people unable to return to their homes.

But emergency crews, now well-drilled in earthquake repairs, began work at first light and had restored water and electricity to most of the city by late on Tuesday.

‘It hasn’t had a big impact on the rebuild’
Key did not expect the latest shake to have a major impact on the NZ$15-billion Christchurch rebuilding programme, saying the worst-hit areas had already suffered major damage in the previous quakes.

“It hasn’t had a big impact on the rebuild here in Christchurch because it was a mirror footprint really,” he said. “It’s for the most part damaged buildings that were already damaged.”

The worst-hit area was the already devastated downtown area known as the red zone, which remains off-limits to the public following the earlier earthquakes.

Key said 75 buildings in the area previously believed safe had been condemned following Monday’s quake, bringing the total earmarked for demolition in the central business district after the three quakes to about 900.

A predicted exodus from Christchurch after the February quake failed to happen but Leanne Curtis from community group CanCERN said Monday’s scare would be the final straw for some.

“People just can’t do it anymore,” she told Fairfax Media. “We’re back to square one.” — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Neil Sands
Neil Sands
Neil Sands is a journalist with AFP.

Related stories

Unpacking the myths and misunderstandings in the Covid-19 vacuum

The basics of epidemiology will help explain why some of the believable but incorrect propositions about the pandemic are wrong.

On language, power and privilege in tertiary education

Advocates of retaining Afrikaans as a language of instruction are blind to their own prejudices

Invest in children to give them a better world

This entails putting them at the centre of national strategies, but doing it without high CO2 releases

Covid-19: Free the evidence

Governments need to provide the modelling and data informing the strategy to control the spread of the novel coronavirus

Lockdown or no lockdown: we face hard choices for complex times

There are no available options for containing the spread of Covid-19 that do not have serious economic costs. We need to listen to expertise, not ill-considered opinion

Eusebius McKaiser: Why Ramaphosa must act decisively against Ndabeni-Abrahams

The president needs South Africans on his side if the lockdown is to be extended. He must show leadership and censure the communications minister for breaking the regulations
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Baby Awa: The miracle baby born on a boat fleeing...

More than 300 000 people in the north of the country have been displaced by militants who ransack villages and then burn them down.

Five suspects arrested in Senzo Meyiwa case

Police minister Bheki Cela announced on Monday that his team has arrested five suspects who were allegedly involved in the killing of former Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa.

EFF eyes municipalities ahead of 2021 local government elections

EFF leader Julius Malema says the party is preparing to govern in many municipalities from next year. It is also launching a programme to defend the rights of farm workers

WSU suspends classes and exams to avoid the spread of...

The university says it has to take the precautionary measures because 26 students have tested positive on its East London campus
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday