New Zealand

Canterbury Earthquakes: Response and Recovery Update - December 2011


The Situation

On 4 September 2010 at 4:35am, the Canterbury region of New Zealand was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Despite the magnitude of the earthquake there were no fatalities, however a number of people were injured and substantial damage was sustained to public buildings, businesses and private properties throughout the region. Significant liquefaction affected the eastern suburbs, producing around 400,000 tonnes of silt. It was fortunate the earthquake occurred when the central city streets were deserted, as experts say there almost certainly would have been many deaths and serious injuries had the event happened during normal business hours.

Nearly six months later on 22 February 2011 at 12:52pm, the city of Christchurch was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that caused widespread devastation.

Seismologically, this event was classed as an aftershock because of its relationship to the ongoing earthquake activity since September 2010. The quake caused significant loss of life and injury. There were181 fatalities with nationals from more than 20 countries among the victims. Again there was severe damage to infrastructure, disruption to services and extensive liquefaction in some areas. A national state of emergency was declared at 10:30am on Wednesday 23 February 2011, which stayed in place until 30 April 2011.

The earthquakes in Canterbury have generated thousands of aftershocks. A large aftershock on 13 June 2011 caused considerable damage, especially to sewerage infrastructure.

Canterbury has also been affected by adverse weather events this winter, including power cuts and school closures caused by snowstorms. This has been particularly difficult for people with damaged homes and those without mains sewerage.

The intensity and frequency of seismic events means that a linear transition from response to recovery has not been possible. New Zealand Red Cross’ response and short-term recovery activities and longer-term recovery planning, are operating in parallel with response activities that are scaled up when required following large scale aftershocks.

New Zealand Government Involvement

To lead the recovery of Canterbury, the government established the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to work with the people of Canterbury to rebuild Christchurch and its surroundings.