One week after the earthquake, I ventured into the city centre to see what was happening. By now most areas had power and water and were operational again. Dozens of workmen were busy in the CBD, and cranes, demolition equipment and emergency tape were visible on almost every block. Ten days after the earthquake, aftershocks still rock the city every couple of hours, with some of them reaching over 4 on the Richter scale. Initial estimates of damage were around NZ$2 billion but this figure has now risen to NZ$4 billion.
Welfare Centers for those whose Homes were Destroyed in the Earthquake
The earthquake left approximately 5000 homes uninhabitable and while many people escaped to family and friends, there were those who had nowhere to go. The city has set up two welfare centers where several hundred people are being catered for. This includes those who have been made homeless as well as some elderly folk and those who lived alone and are feeling vulnerable. The centers are working well as the people in them have the added benefit of being able to share stories with people in similar positions. The church I belong to has helped with serving meals at these shelters.
Services on hand at the welfare centers include counselors, Red Cross, St John’s, Salvation Army, Civil Defence, Housing New Zealand, and others.
Repairs in the Centre of Christchurch
While some stores are open and the buses and trams are running again, there are many sections of the city that are not operational. I visited the CBD on Saturday and found Cathedral Square very quiet. The Arts Center was closed due to damage and the street markets were not operating.
The center of Christchurch is normally alive with buskers but on that day, I only saw two. These were young boys of about ten and were donating the proceeds of their day to the Earthquake Fund.
Coffee shops were open but the mood was somber and quiet. Broken windows punctuated some of the higher buildings and every door had a notice on it stating whether the premises were fit for use, had restricted access or no access. The newspaper reported architects and engineers were in discussion over how to save some of the severely damaged heritage buildings but a number have already been demolished.
What is the Feeling amongst the People of Christchurch
People are traumatized and sad but there is also optimism. Christchurch City Council has passed new bylaws concerning construction practices so future buildings will be more secure in the face of earthquakes. The feeling is one of hope for the future and a belief that the city will recover.
The 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch was a terrible shock for the residents of the city but has brought them together with a common purpose; to rebuild the city and make it stronger and better. In the interim period the homeless are being cared for and plans are being made for repairing and strengthening the buildings that can be saved.