What had a lot of impact on me, was seeing the Catholic Cathedral on Barbados Street in a state of ruin. It sustained a lot of damage in the February earthquake. It’s still standing but at the side, there are lots of containers propping up the walls. It looks so desolate but there’s a sign on the fence outside to say that the cathedral had moved to another location, 373 Manchester St and that all visitors, tourists and parishioners are welcome.
The immediate after effect of the February earthquake was that a lot of people had no power, water or sewerage. They had to boil water before drinking it. A New Zealand online newspaper, Stuff.co.nz, reported the following information, five days after the February 22nd 2011 quake: “expect the water supply to be intermittent for the next two to three weeks. Tankers are delivering water to areas without supply and 1100 portaloos had been distributed in priority areas. If water is not available, conserve it and do not shower, take baths or flush toilets. Assume that river, seawater and any other surface water is contaminated with sewage.
In the CBD 50% of the power was off and no one is allowed to enter the CBD until further notice. Housing NZ is providing temporary accommodation. Four welfare centres are open. Pioneer Stadium is housing up to 600 people. Universities, schools and early childhood centres in Christchurch are closed until further notice. Around 19 primary schools will reopen later this week and early next week. All hospitals are operating. Keep cell phone use to a minimum, especially voice calls and data.” The phone networks jammed up with people trying to contact loved ones.
On top of this, people also had to deal with liquefaction in their gardens and on the streets. What is liquefaction you might ask? During an earthquake, fine sand, silt and underground water liquefies and moves up under pressure through cracks and other weak areas, to erupt onto the ground surface. It’s a silvery gray coloured mud. When it’s wet, it’s like glue, when it’s dry, it’s like cement and when the wind blows, it gets into everything. On the 4th September 2010, university student Sam Johnson started a facebook event to mobilise student volunteers and they were called the Student Volunteer Army. Their main aim was to support the community by clearing away silt (liquefaction) from private land. Within a week three and a half thousand people had joined. Their largest operation followed the 22nd February quake when they joined with the University of Canterbury Students Association among others, to manage nine thousand volunteers to help the community with the after effects of the quake.
What’s very clear through all of this, is the people’s strength, determination and above all, their extraordinary sense of community spirit. There were teams from the Student Volunteer Army and the Federated Farmers helping people move out of homes and shoveling liquefaction away. For weeks after the quake, churches like Grace Vineyard Church, in New Brighton, became a distribution centre, providing food, water, clothes, advice etc to the local area. Rangiora Earthquake Express helicoptered essential supplies to the hardest hit areas. Countless individuals offered a helping hand to neighbours and those who needed it most. On a national level, trucks were loaded up with food and drink and driven from Auckland and Wellington etc to Christchurch to help them out.