Shattered city hit again
Will it ever end?
Christchurch residents were jolted back to the terror and disruption of September and February when two powerful aftershocks struck the city, injuring more than 40 people, further damaging quake-hit buildings and battering already shattered nerves.
A magnitude 5.5 quake hit at 1pm and a 6.0 aftershock – the third largest quake since the 7.1 September 4 quake – struck at 2.20pm. Both were thought to be on the same Port Hills fault that generated the February 22 quake that killed 182 people.
About 46 people were seen at Christchurch Hospital and the 24-hour surgery in Bealey Ave for a range of injuries and earthquake-related conditions, including six who had been hit by falling debris.
The hospital said last night there were two people with major injuries. Another person had a possible spinal injury, and others had cuts, bruises and chest pains.
The quakes caused cliff collapses along the city's eastern bays – including a Sumner collapse which took part of an unoccupied house with it. They also triggered liquefaction across the eastern and southern suburbs hardest hit in February.
Some Christchurch Hospital patients made their own decision to leave the hospital after both quakes. The main hospital complex did not suffer major structural damage, but some aged residential care facilities were damaged.
Hundreds of shoppers fled shopping centres and supermarkets, including Riccarton Mall, after the 1pm tremor. Among them were Greymouth pair Matt Adams and Crystal Graham-Hayes.
"All the lights started shaking to the ground. I freaked out a little bit," Adams said.
Recovery workers were evacuated from the inner-city red zone.
For quake-weary Christchurch residents the shocks took many back to depressingly familiar jobs. Shovelling silt from driveways and footpaths, boiling water, breaking out the chemical toilets and lighting candles.
Power was cut to 56,000 homes initially, and by last night there were about 30,000 households without electricity, although lines company Orion hoped to reduce that to 20,000 overnight.
Most of the cuts were in the eastern suburbs, including the Sumner/Redcliffs area.
Health authorities issued a boil water notice and said some of the liquefaction could be contaminated with sewage.
Canterbury University, the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and many secondary schools were closed early and will remain shut today.
Part of an unoccupied red-stickered house in Kinsey Tce, Sumner plunged 40 metres down the cliff face it had been teetering on since the previous quakes.
The cliff, known locally as Peacock's Gallop, collapsed in several places sending rocks crashing into containers protecting the main road to Sumner.
Kinsey Tce resident Gail Dowgray said the aftershocks were "very, very scary".
"The second one was so scary I just lost it completely. I just went hysterical. I screamed `No, no, no'."
Sreydon residents Chynel Baker and Neil Harrison, who were out with a well practised routine to clear silt from their drive, were more philosophical."I don't think it really matters where you go, because if it's going to happen, it's going to happen. They said to expect (aftershocks) for a year and once a year's gone you can start to relax," said Baker.
The Christchurch Airport terminal was evacuated after the second quake, but reopened last night.
It was a trying first day in the office for new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority boss Roger Sutton, who acknowledged the frustration of the shakes. "I did have it all pretty clearly mapped out what my first day or so would be and this wasn't actually included in the plan."
Mayor Bob Parker said: "What a rotten day this has been for the people in Christchurch. They told us statistically we needed to be prepared for something like this but they didn't tell us it was going to come as soon as this, so it's been a hellish day."
Christchurch Central Labour MP Brendon Burns said the aftershocks would "take their toll".
"We will come through this because we're a stoic lot, but this isn't going to do us any favours.".