Japan PM: Visit stirs sad memories

21:12, Jul 07 2014
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe
SOLEMN MOMENT: Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, lay a wreath at the CTV site.

Michio Humphreys stood at the Madras St railing as the motorcade rolled by.

She waved a small Japanese flag.

The sight of her prime minister brought back memories. In 1995, Humphreys was in Kobe, on the 14th floor of an apartment block, when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck. It killed more than 6000 people. Then 16 years later she was living in Christchurch when the February earthquake struck.

Japan PM at CTV
PAYING RESPECTS: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, pay their respects at the CTV site.

"The trauma came back," she said.

Yesterday, she came to see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pay his respects at the CTV site where 28 Japanese students died.

"It was good that he came," Humphreys said.

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Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton greeted Abe at the memorial.

Abe and his wife then laid a wreath at the memorial before bowing.

A small crowd of Japanese shook hands with him as he posed for photos.

Among them was 16-year-old Moe Kumagai who had been learning English in the city for three months. For her, the occasion was more about the excitment of seeing Abe. "I never saw him in Japan," she said.

When Fairfax Media visited Japan last year and spoke with parents of those who died in the building there was a disbelief that no-one had been held to account. The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission found the CTV building did not meet construction standards.

"If this had happened in Japan we would have brought this case to the court as a civil charge," said Kazui Horita, whose daughter Megumi died in the building.

"But we understand that this is not possible in New Zealand. If this is the case then the New Zealand Government should do something to fill this gap."

The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (Ipenz) confirmed last week that David Harding, who in 1986 designed the building, had resigned. He can no longer be sanctioned as a result of a disciplinary hearing - relating to his engineering activities on the CTV building - if found to have breached standards.

The Royal Commission found Harding was working "beyond his competence" and had been largely unsupervised by his employer, Alan Reay, despite Harding's limited experience designing multi-level buildings.

Police are investigating whether prosecutions are possible.

The Press