Quake effects linger long

PREPARED: Timaru District civil defence manager Lamorna Cooper is ready for a disaster.
PREPARED: Timaru District civil defence manager Lamorna Cooper is ready for a disaster.

Timaru's civil defence and social services say they are still responding to the effects of the Christchurch earthquake, two years on.

South Canterbury Civil Defence emergency manager Lamorna Cooper said she was at a conference in Wellington on disaster preparedness when the magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck in Christchurch on February 22, 2011.

"We could actually feel a bit of the shake. I looked across at one of my Christchurch colleagues, and he was immediately on the phone," she said.

"We all knew this was a big one. Luckily, I was able to get a direct flight to Timaru."

More than 9000 people visited the welfare centre at Caroline Bay from February 23 to March 9, 2011. Ms Cooper said there had been a lot of pre-planning with several organisations, including Work and Income, the Salvation Army, Presbyterian Support and Red Cross.

"A lot went on behind the scenes; that's how it was able to be established so quickly," she said.

"The real surprise for everyone was how much emotional input was required from staff and volunteers. The people visiting the centre just couldn't know the long-term effects or implications of the earthquakes."

The Timaru community was extremely adaptable, she said.

"Since the earthquakes, I've been really impressed with how proactive many businesses, schools and community organisations have been in establishing their own emergency response plans," she said.

"The earthquakes reminded the greater community not to take emergency preparedness for granted - it's not just up to a small group of individuals."

Presbyterian Support Family Works manager Liz Nolan said the Timaru branch organisation supported or assisted more than 500 individuals and families in the year following the earthquake.

"Their needs were so varied. It wasn't just the immediate requests for food, clothing and shelter, but ongoing emotional support."

The Timaru office was still dealing with a small number of families.

The Timaru Herald