7.1 earthquake: Aftershock damage

BY STUFF REPORTERS
Last updated 12:31 06/09/2010

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LATEST: Christchurch has been shaken by two strong aftershocks within the space of 16 minutes tonight, with further damage reported.

A magnitude 5.2 quake struck at 11.24pm, centred 20km southeast of Darfield, followed by a magnitude 5.4 quake at 11.40pm southwest of Darfield. Both quakes had a focal depth of 9km.

GNS Science's Geonet website said that the first quake had caused minor damage, with "possible minor damage" as a result of the second quake.

Christchurch resident Sid Bhalla told Stuff.co.nz that cracks in his home were opening further as a result of the aftershocks.

Nearly 100 aftershocks had been recorded since Saturday morning's 7.1 magnitude earthquake devastated Canterbury.

"You just don't know when to sleep, where to sleep. If you go to sleep one of the aftershocks will wake you up," Mr Bhalla said.

$5 MILLION DONATION

Prime Minister John Key has announced a $5 million donation to the mayoral fund set up to rebuild earthquake ravaged Canterbury.

There have been donations of $6 million to the fund, set up by Mayor Bob Parker on Saturday, from the private sector.

Cabinet has appointed Minister for Economic Development Gerry Brownlee to oversee the rebuild, Mr Key - who will not be delaying his trip to Europe later this week - said.

Saturday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck at 4.35am and caused widespread damage, much of it centred in Christchurch. The cost of repairs is estimated to be $2 billion and at least 100,000 households are expected to claim around $1 billion from the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

Mr Key said preliminary advice from Treasury suggested there will be "considerable disruption" to both the Canterbury and national economy in the short term.

"There should be an increase in economic activity once reconstruction kicks into gear," he said.

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Around $94m was immediately available in the emergency works fund for roads  "for use across the country" for the rest of the year.

"It's definitely not enough but it's enough to get started," he said.

The government will assist beyond the emergency work fund "if required."

Mr Key said the $5m dollars to the mayoral hardship fund is a ''starting point.'' The Government would look to contribute more if there was huge demand.

''You've got to remember that fund is only used for cases of welfare and hardship where that is not covered by other areas from the crown. A lot of people will be covered by Work and Income or other aspects of payment.''

The government will discuss with the local mayors tomorrow how the fund will be administrated.

Mr Key said costs to repair infrastructure are ''likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars'' and this would not come out of the mayoral fund.

''The first thing we need to do is understand that liability and we are simply not in a position to do that at the moment, Mr Key said.

Mr Key also moved to assure people who were worried they would not get wages.

''The first port of call to those workers should be to Work and Income and also the mayoral fund.''

He hoped private firms would continue paying workers for the next couple of weeks.  But he admitted: ''Not all companies are in that strong a financial position to do that.''

He told reporters the government would have to be careful how they dealt with those who did not have insurance policies.  They would ''need to demonstrate they are in true hardship.''

Meanwhile, Cabinet held an "extensive" three hour discussion about the Canterbury rebuild today, Mr Key said.

Cabinet was briefed by Civil Defence Minister John Carter and Agricultural Minister David Carter today. They outlined damage to infrastructure such as roads and the sewage system as well to farms. Engineers are still investigating the extent of this. But the cost of repairs to this would have to be met by central Government.

Also out of Cabinet:

- A large number of schools are expected to be re-opened on Wednesday and rail lines later this week.

- Experts are also on route from Australia to help the Earthquake Commission. There were 4000 calls to a 24 hour help line.

- EQC had received 15000 claims so far.

- EQC will establish three field offices with about 40 staff in each. The first will open later this week.

- The civil defence minister John Carter was meeting with local mayors this afternoon and offers of help from local authorities around the country would be taken up.

MOVING OUT

Residents at a new Christchurch subdivision have started packing up their damaged homes as life without power, water and sewage facilities takes its toll.

The subdivision made up of Seabreeze Close, Waireka Lane and Kokopu Lane, which contains around 60 homes, was built over the last 5-10 years on reclaimed land and was hard hit by Saturday's earthquake. Most homes and sections are covered in deep layers of sandy silt and houses have lifted, cracked and sunk.

Many residents said their former "dream homes" were now write-offs and they had no choice but to leave.

One house had been cleaned out by burglars the night after the quake when it's owners had sought refuge elsewhere.

Resident Noreen Andrews said she would never come back to the her brand new home.

She did not feel safe after the terrible events of Saturday morning.

"I was in bed then the next thing I knew the whole bed went straight across the room.

"I tried to stand up but I couldn't so I crawled to the back door.

"When I went outside all I could hear was the lady next door screaming and the sounds of buildings breaking.

"The noise of those roofs cracking was so terrible I tired to go back inside and that's when I saw the mud bubbling up at the front door."

When Ms Andrews tried to get in her car to escape she realised the roller on her garage door had been damaged in the quake.

She went outside and tried to go see her neighbour.

"I walked to my letterbox and the water was up to my thighs and then I saw the toilet paper floating by and I knew it was sewage.

"I can never come back home after this. It will never feel right again."

Today removal trucks and family and friends started shifting households to other accommodation. The Press counted about 30 houses that people had already left or were in the process of doing so. The houses are regarded as unsalvageable.

Many of the people leaving for an uncertain future were retired people who had bought their homes looking forward to the good life.

POWER ALMOST BACK

Power has been returned to 98 percent of Christchurch while 90 percent of all homes now have water, but city officials are worried about falling masonry as aftershocks continue.

All buses will be back on city roads tomorrow, with some exceptions.

But a city-wide boil water notice remains in effect while Christchurch City Council engineers conduct water tests over the next 24 hours.

Fifty streets still had no mains water and the council had dispatched water tankers and portable toilets to 13 locations across the city.

Sewerage infrastructure had taken a hit with one pumping station and two wastewater treatment pumping stations "beyond repair,'' Council city environment general manager Jane Parfitt said.

Rubbish collections had resumed today and although the Litchfield St bus exchange had been cleared by structural engineers, a decision on whether buses would run tomorrow will not be made until late today.

Structural engineers had completed their assessments of buildings in the central business district.

Parfitt described the situation across Christchurch as "ordered and measured."

Full updates on city services and other important information was to be released at a press conference at 4pm.

Environment Canterbury this afternoon said the Metro bus network would resume except for routes 51 (Tower Junction-New Brighton) and 480 (Kainga).

Services to the inner city will be re-routed with pickup and drop-offs limited to Colombo St near Victoria Square and South City.

Meanwhile, the newly opened civic building suffered some interior damage but will stay closed until next Tuesday while a detailed structural assessment is done.

QUAKE SERIES WARNING

History suggests the Canterbury earthquake could be a trigger for a series of major earthquakes which New Zealand must prepare for, scientists say.

Victoria University's geophysics professor Euan Smith said Saturday morning's magnitude 7.1 quake did some things "as expected" but "had some surprises as well."

He said policy regarding unreinforced masonry structures should now become "urgent" because a 1929 west Canterbury magnitude 7 earthquake turned out to be the first of a series of seven major, magnitude greater than 7, earthquakes over the next 13 years.

The series included the second and third largest earthquakes in European times - the magnitude 7.8 Buller and Hawke's Bay earthquakes.

The series ended with two magnitudes 7.2 and 7.0 earthquakes in the Wairarapa in 1942.

"It is improbable that this occurrence of such large earthquakes in rapid succession was coincidental.

"There is no reason to think that such a series could not happen again."

"The first lesson, for local authorities and policy makers, concerns what happened to the unreinforced masonry structures in this earthquake.

"It is time for the rest to act. Owners of unreinforced masonry buildings, and chimneys, everywhere in New Zealand should be given a reasonable period of time - say 10 years - to demolish them or make them safe in future earthquakes."

The fault that ruptured and produced the earthquake in Canterbury appears not to have ruptured for at least 16,000 years, scientists said today.

"Before Saturday, there was nothing in the landscape that would have suggested there was an active fault beneath the Darfield and Rolleston areas," manager of the Natural Hazards Platform at GNS Science Kelvin Berryman said.

Geologists had no information on when the fault last ruptured as it was unknown until last weekend.

"All we can say at this stage is that this newly revealed fault has not ruptured since the gravels were deposited about 16,000 years ago."

Dr Berryman said it was highly likely there were other "hidden" faults around New Zealand which might be capable of producing large earthquakes in the future.

The fault had been accumulating stress for thousands of years and failed catastrophically when the stresses exceeded a certain threshold.

PAIR FLEE BUILDING

Two people fled a damaged Christchurch building they were in after it was shaken by aftershocks this afternoon.

Rose Lennon, 49, and her son Myles Alexander, 20, were salvaging furniture from the La Boutique store she owned when police told them to leave the building on the corner of Cranford and Westminster Streets.

The already badly damaged building slumped even more following a large aftershock this afternoon.

"It was really scary inside the building listening to every single creak,'' said Alexander.

At 2.20pm a bulldozer arrived and began a controlled demolition of the building after police cordoned off the area.

"There was just lots of dust and movement and and I thought 'No we better get out of here','' said Lennon.

"I don't know if it's a lucky escape, but it was terrifying thinking it could fall down while you are in there.''

Lennon said she was totting up what remained of the stock in the shop she moved to three years ago and trying to plan for the future.

HEALTH WARNINGS

Health Minister Tony Ryall is urging earthquake hit Cantabrians to heed public health messages.

Ryall said a team of health specialists was arriving in Christchurch today.

A water sanitation specialist engineer had flown in this morning to help assess damage and work on remediation. A medical officer of health and five health protection officers had also arrived and would stay until Thursday. Six defence force personnel specialising in environmental health would also arrive in Christchurch today.

Mr Ryall said people should carefully heed public health messages, including:

* Boil water for three minutes before drinking, brushing teeth or washing/preparing food.

* Use as little water as possible to flush your toilet if you have water.

* Remember hand washing stops diseases spreading.

* Look after each other - keep in touch with families, friends and neighbours and support each other.

* Avoid contact with sewage. Don't gather fish or shellfish in the sea or from Canterbury rivers.

* If you are unwell with a minor injury or illness and need medical assistance call your General Practice or nearest after hours surgery.

Ryall said people should go to the Emergency Department in an emergency only.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

Environment Canterbury pollution prevention manager Don Chittock said people going in to business premises this morning were discovering spills of hazardous substances.

About half a dozen spills had been dealt with already.

The major concern was hazardous substances leaking into groundwater supplies or into stormwater systems.

"Contain it on site, if you can," he said.

Significant spills should be reported to the Fire Service and smaller discharges to ECan's pollution hotline on (03) 366 4663 or 0800 765 588.

SUPPORT SERVICES

St John Ambulance volunteers are working around the clock to support those affected.

Around 85 St John ambulance and events staff have been volunteering their services.

They are working three shifts to support the people at the three welfare centres around the quake-stricken city.

Much of the ruined city remains cordoned off this morning, while search and rescue teams assess buildings for damage.

St John regional operations manager Chris Haines said volunteers had freely given their time and many of them had suffered damage to their own homes.

"The earthquake has shown the strength of the St John family. It's been great to see so many people pulling together and working through what is a very difficult and uncomfortable situation for all," Mr Haines said.

More than 2500 people have phoned a 24 hour earthquake helpline, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said.

Five Work and Income offices in Christchurch are confirmed safe and will open today to provide emergency support, she said. The helpline number is 0800 77 9997.

Last night, more that 200 people sought refuge in welfare centres set up across the region, with the Linwood welfare centre hosting around 90 people overnight; Addington another 90, and Burnside hosted 20 people.

A shelter was also set up in Kaiapoi, at Kaiapoi North School after 150 people were evactuated from the Riverlands Motor Camp at Waimakariri for fear of flooding.

EMOTIONAL TRAUMA

Many people would be in a state of shock as they dealt with the practicalities of making their homes safe and restored water and power, said Joint Centre for Disaster at Massey University director David Johnston.

"But some of these issues can manifest themselves in the weeks and months to follow and there will be a lot of people who will need a lot of support."

Dr Johnston said most people would get over the trauma but some would need professional help.

"That could be a significant number in a large population. But time will be the cure of it for most."

He said the amount of support needed varied.

"Some people like to talk about this, some people don't."

For some it was enough to know a neighbour, friend or relative had offered help.

"The key thing is to let people deal with it in the way that suits them. So often it is not about making people sit down and talk about it, it is just being around and giving them support."

- with The Press, Dominion Post and NZPA

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