Christchurch was hit by another series of earthquakes last week, setting New Zealand’s second largest city further back with its reconstruction efforts following the impact and destruction from the September 2010 and February 2011 quakes.
Five tremors of a 4.3 magnitude or more have hit the city, further destroying buildings, homes and infrastructure for the city’s residents. Roads have been damaged and water supplies have been cut off. Across the city water pipes have burst, residents have been told by the Canterbury District Health Board that all water to be used must be boiled and are advised to conserve all water as water pressure remains low. Residents have also been advised that owing to the water shortages, portaloos and chemical toilets must be used.
People have been urged not to use the roads unless it is of an absolute neccesity, until the extent of the buildings and infrastructure damage has been assessed, as it is a priority to leave them free for emergency services.
The city’s streets and roads have also been damaged through liquefaction, a process caused by the strength of the earthquake which turns the solid ground into liquid.
Over 50,000 homes are now contending with power cuts and for those people who have been forced to leave their homes a welfare centre has been set up at Cowles Stadium by the Christchurch City Council.
Many lines of rail transport have been suspended after the Chief Executive of KiwiRail, Jim Quinn announced that all tracks, lines and structures need to be inspected before resuming business. The majority of schools around the city will stay closed until Tuesday.
The strongest of the quakes, measured by the US Geological Survey was recorded at 6.0 magnitude which hit in the city at approximately 2.20pm (10.20pm Sunday local time). The depth of the tremor was 9km and had an epicentre of 14km.
In the area of Port Hills from these tremors the aftershocks caused boulders to fall towards homes and buildings, causing greater damage.
After February’s devestating earthquake a heavily damaged area of the centre of the city now known as the ‘Red Zone’, which is still off limits to the public, has been dealt a new blow with 50 buildings in the area weakened and damaged further, and many off them have collapsed.
However despite the significant impact these latest quakes have had on the city’s buildings and infrastructure, and locals reporting that debris from the buildings was falling into the streets, Christchurch’s National Crisis Management Centre has reported that there have been no fatalities.
A reported 46 people have been injured from these recent events, none of which are seriously injured. However, following the strongest of the tremors the local ambulance services recieved a further influx of emergency calls.
The cost of the reconstruction effort for Christchurch following the 4th September and 22nd February earthquakes is approximately $12.2 billion. In February this year which destroyed 10,000 buildings beyond physical repair and which left another 100,000 homes extensively damaged. 900 buildings in what is now known as the ‘Red Zone’ were destroyed.
Monday’s earthquake has pushed the New Zealand dollar lower and is forcing the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to keep interest rates on hold. It is undoubtedly going to add greater pressure the reconstruction effort and unfortunately there does not appear to be an estimated end to these tremors over the coming days and weeks. New Zealand’s GNS Science Institute has outlined that this seismic activity has occurred within a predicted pattern after February’s earthquake’s and as a result is likely to trigger off a heavier series of tremors, predicted at 4.0- 5.0 magnitude in the next few weeks.