22 February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake
by Ros Houghton
Just before 1pm on February 22, 2011, Christchurch New Zealand experienced the largest disaster in New Zealand’s recent history. A 6.3 magnitude earthquake that was 5km deep and centred 10km outside the city struck and caused widespread damage to the central city. Unlike the previous earthquake in the same region in September 2010, this earthquake has caused over 100 deaths and at least 300 people are still reported missing to date. Because of the time day, many people were in the central city at work or on lunch breaks. This coupled with the relatively shallow depth of the quake has meant the impact of this earthquake dwarfs that of the September quake.
The Red Cross and Salvation Army have immediately begun welfare response work and donations are pouring in from across the globe. Our Prime Minister has declared a National Emergency and described this earthquake as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. The damage has been estimated at $6Bil (NZ) to date but this is sure to rise, as will the death toll. Many homes have been destroyed and this has made the existing housing shortage from the previous earthquake, even worse. Students had just returned from University vacation as well, meaning even less accommodation was available.
Women’s Refuge immediately assembled a team to respond to the need in Christchurch. The Chief Executive, 3 trained advocates and myself travelled down via ferry with two vans loaded with donated supplies. We have already heard the domestic violence callouts are up overnight and upon arrival in the city, it became clear the situation was pretty grim for the Refuges, with damage to vital buildings and offices, staff unable to work, and no power, water or sewage. Those with open safehouses are full to capacity. The team will meet tomorrow with all Refuges to establish a plan for continued services in the coming months.
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