Christchurch earthquakes: 'It's like being on death row'

CLIO FRANCIS
Last updated 07:31 14/06/2011
Christchuch Quake 13/06
DON SCOTT/The Press Zoom
Timeball station, as seen from the air.

Aftershock rattles Christchurch

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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It was the last thing already battered and broken Christchurch needed.

Two more powerful earthquakes brought the damaged city to a standstill yesterday, opening sinkholes in roads, toppling buildings, flooding streets and bursting pipes.

At least 10 people, including one person with suspected spinal injuries and two with shattered hips, are in Christchurch Hospital. Altogether, about 46 people were treated at the hospital and the 24-hour surgery in Bealey Ave.

Most were hurt by falling building material after a 5.5 quake at 1pm. As residents reeled, another tremor, this time 6.0, hit at 2.20pm.

People in the eastern suburbs said they were "back to square one" after being swamped by fresh liquefaction. "People just can't do it any more," community advocate Leanne Curtis said. The liquefaction was worse in some areas than in September and February.

Dominion Post columnist Jane Bowron was at the airport when the first quake struck, and said there was mass panic as people ran for safety. "The whole place started rocking – it seemed to go on for a very long time."

The major aftershock, on top of the continuing jolts, was "just more rain coming down", she said. "It's a challenging, tough time. Very definitely, it's wearing people down.

"It's sort of like being on death row ... you get reprieves but you know that it's serious, but it's just what the earth is going through."

But as the latest of a series of aftershocks since the 6.3 quake on February 22 raised more questions about whether life in Christchurch was sustainable, Bowron insisted she would stay put for now, with the support of friends and neighbours. "It's what you need in this situation – you just need company."

Assistant minister Peter Collier, of St John's in Latimer Square, hurried to the central city church after learning that demolition workers were trapped by the 5.5 quake. By the time he arrived, the men had been freed – and then the 6.0 quake hit.

"I looked down Hereford St and I could see debris falling from the buildings. It was frightening. Your mind just goes out to the rest of Christchurch. You just wait anxiously to see what's happened to everyone. People seem resilient but it takes its toll."

The flurry of quakes also led to the indefinite adjournment of the inquest into the deaths of 106 people when the CTV building collapsed in February. The three-day inquest had been due to start yesterday.

Fire Service spokesman Dan Coward said there had been countless callouts to burst pipes, especially in the Sumner area, where many locals were "freaked out". St John Ambulance reported a rise in people with chest pains and breathing difficulties.

Christchurch Airport closed immediately after the quakes, but reopened later in the afternoon. Air New Zealand added four extra flights to and from Christchurch last night to cope with the backlog.

The Education Ministry was advising all schools and early childhood education services in the city to remain closed today so management could assess damage.

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- The Dominion Post

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