Wednesday, February 23

New Zealand's "darkest day"

Another terrible tragedy has struck New Zealand today. A second major earthquake rocked the city of Christchurch at 12.51pm this afternoon. Today's tremor, registering magnitude 6.3 jolted the city at the worst possible time with the central city packed with lunch-hour shoppers, office workers and school children. While less severe than the 7.1 quake that struck on September 4, its epicenter was relatively shallow and located closer to the city centre.

As a result, the quake’s destructive force has proven far greater. Buildings have collapsed around the city killing at least 65 people. This toll is expected to rise as at least 100 remain trapped in the rubble tonight. Many fear that the final toll will exceed 200 people. The nation’s prime minister has described today’s tragedy as possibly New Zealand's "darkest day.

My mother was born in the city and so many extended family members still live in the area. Over the course of day we’ve been able to make contact with all of them. I’m relieved to report that all are safe but badly shaken. As you can imagine this destructive quake has trashed the contents of their respective homes, toppling furniture and throwing the contents of cupboards onto the floor. My Aunt whose house was condemned after last year’s quake has now been impacted by liquefaction. Her garage was flooded and her yard has been smothered by layers of mud. While the damage is heart-breaking it seems she may have been relatively lucky.

In town, one of the destroyed office blocks, the Pyne Gould Corp building, was occupied by my brother’s employer. While he’s based in Auckland much of the company’s IT infrastructure resides in Christchurch. He’s now working tirelessly through the night rebuilding their network. The media is reporting that up to 30 people are trapped in ruins of this building; roughly half work for my brother's company. Understandably there are grave fears for their safety as one death has already been confirmed on site.

UPDATE: February 23
My aunt has had to abandon her home as the area is still without water, sewerage and power. She's now staying with my cousin. My brother finally got home at 3pm today after working 36 hours non-stop. At least five people have been rescued from the PCG building overnight. However,the official death toll has climbed to 75 and is expected to rise further. At least another 80 bodies are believed to be buried at the site of the CTV building that also collapsed yesterday. Other news reports claim 22 people have died in the rubble of Christchurch Cathedral.

All day today new images of the earthquake's devastation have poured into newsrooms showing unbeliveable scenes of damage across the city. Christchurch has been seriously battered. Unfortunately the worst may not be over. Regular aftershocks continue to rattle the city, inflicting further damage. Tonight one of Christchurch's tallest buildings, the Grand Chancellor Hotel, is on the verge of collapse.

UPDATE: March 10
The official death toll in Christchurch now stands at 166 people. Authorities are still saying the final toll is likely to come in close to 200. As the last two weeks have unfolded the scenes of utter destruction across the city have begun to reveal the true extend of the quake's damage. Large sections of the inner city are literally in ruins and hundreds of building will have to be demolished.

Photo source: The New Zealand Herald

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