Police release earthquake audio

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 11:43 22/02/2012

Christchurch police communications audio 22/02/2011, part 1

Christchurch police communications audio 22/02/2011, part 2

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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"There's buildings down everywhere here. We need as many units as possible."

The Christchurch police officer who made that statement was at the corner of Kilmore and Colombo streets soon after the last February's earthquake struck, telling communication centre staff of the devastation all around her.

Police have today released about seven minutes of dispatch tape recorded during the aftermath of the February 22, 2011 disaster.

The audiotapes reveal initial observations from police officers around Christchurch as they discover the extent of the damage caused by the quake - both to people and property.

One officer reports the scene at the collapsed Canterbury Television building on Madras St.

"We have got major damage. We have building collapses with people inside. We've got whole three-four storey complexes completely demolished."

The officer describes evacuating people to the nearby Latimer Square, and asks for an emergency trauma site to be established for treating the many who were injured.

"We're gonna need fire here now. We've got a building on fire now as well."

In City Mall another officer describes the scene, acknowledging how chaotic the situation was across the city.

"There's people trapped in Cashel Mall ... they need ambulances. I know you're busy, I'm just passing it on."

Scale of disaster way beyond comprehension

Southern Communications Centre manager Inspector Kieren Kortegast said the tapes were released to help "set some of the scene".

Some audio could not be released because it was easy to identify the victims mentioned.

"Those who've lived through it, we know how difficult it was. These [tapes] can convey the true emotion."

The scale of the disaster was "way beyond the comprehension of anything we actually thought we'd every see", he said.

Immediately after the shaking stopped, Kortegast conducted a quick assessment of the building and was confident it was safe. The communications centre's phones and computer system were not disrupted by the quake, and power was provided through a generator.

He did not realise until later that the rest of the police building had self-evacuated.

There was some raw emotion coming through the radio, especially just after the magnitude 6.3 quake struck, he said.

However, the staff "did an absolutely amazing job" to stay in the building and continue taking emergency calls and dispatching instructions to police on the ground.

"It was very matter of fact. We couldn't afford to lose that control. Lives were saved because of it and because our systems carried on," he said.

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"It was bloody exciting in here and that's probably putting it roughly, with all these aftershocks. It was difficult times, but they were very calm, their training kicked in."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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