USAID/OFDA Responds to the New Zealand Earthquake
On the afternoon of February 22, people in Christchurch, New Zealand, were going about their normal lunchtime routine when a magnitude 6.3 earthquake rattled the city, trapping people under collapsed buildings, causing extensive damage to the city center, and killing hundreds of individuals.
In response to a request from the Government of New Zealand, USAID/OFDA immediately mobilized a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, including a 74-person urban search and rescue (USAR) team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, to help with search and rescue operations. USAID also activated a Washington, D.C.,-based Response Management Team to coordinate the U.S. Government humanitarian response to the earthquake.
The U.S. USAR team joined a multinational search and rescue effort on the ground in Christchurch, fully or partially clearing 16 city blocks and searching 23 buildings in the central business district for possible trapped survivors. U.S. USAR team structural engineers also put their technical expertise to work by providing guidance to New Zealand city planners on the stability of damaged buildings and ways to safely demolish unsound structures. To replace equipment lost during the earthquake and enhance domestic search and rescue capacity for future earthquakes, USAID authorized the transfer of approximately $405,000 in sophisticated detection and rescue equipment to the New Zealand Fire Service.