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Quake City

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 5 July 2013 | Views [550]

Christchurch is a bit of a city in limbo at the moment.  It may be over 2 years since the Feb 2011 earthquake that destroyed the heart of the city but that event still defines life in the city and probably will for a generation, until the memories of the day and the 'old' city start to fade to the background.  To drive around the inner suburbs you'd think everything was back to normal, and individuals can't live in limbo for that long so people are getting on with their lives but the city centre is still pretty eerie.

Christchurch actually experienced a larger earthquake of R7 in September 2010 but the epicentre was deeper and further away, although there was damage there were no injuries or deaths.  The R6.3 of February 2011 was closer to the city, shallower and because of the way it travelled through the earth it created more ground shaking, causing a lot of damage in the CBD, huge liquifaction in some suburbs and 185 deaths in collapsed buildings.

You'd think after 2+ years things would be back to 'normal' and although the roads in the centre were just about all open (the last cordon actually came down the day we left), almost all the buildings were fenced off as unsafe, while others are in the process of demolition.  I guess one of the issues is that in any city, planning of developments takes time to get agreement and finance etc so imagine having to do that on every site in the middle of the city.

We were wandering round the CBD on a Saturday morning and there was hardly anyone about, apart from demolition teams working.  The cathedral is still there half collapsed while they work out whether they can keep it standing.  We saw quite a few old brick churches around the city that were damaged and being held up with steel bracing.  While some of the damaged buildings are 60s monstrosities that it won't be a shame to replace with something better, its sad to lose so many heritage buildings.

The positive aspect is that they have a plan in place for a swish new city centre with low rise buildings, open spaces and more riverside areas.  In about 10 years it'll be a new city, I just hope the residents can keep the faith that long.

We walked around and as well as the damaged buildings, we saw the container mall (where they set up a load of shipping containers and made them into shops - that area was busy!), the memorial of empty chairs for the people who died, the new inter-denominational cardboard cathedral in progress. There was even punting on the river - we felt right at home!

Other places worth a mention - Willowbank wildlife park where we saw lots of native wildlife, including some kiwis!  Also the International Antarctic Centre was fascinating, we rode in a Hagglund, experienced an Antarctic storm, a 4D movie and saw the Little Penguins being fed!

The people of Christchurch have been 'doing it tough' but there's light at the end of the tunnel and its amazing to see the innovation and creativity that's emerged in the aftermath to raise money, improve morale and take advantage of new opportunities.  I wish them well and hopefully we'll be back one day to see what rises from the rubble.

Tags: antarctic, churches, earthquake, kiwis, memorial

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