POSTCARD FROM NEW ZEALAND NUMBER 4 12th MARCH 2012
Here we are again with postcard number 4. Last week was the 2nd anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch. I am not going to go into the chaos and devastation that happened as this was well presented all over the world by the newspapers and TV. What I would like to do is to convey some of the positive events that have happened since the 22nd of February 2011 earthquake .
Within hours of the 'quake occurring, rescue teams from around the world were on their way to give us a hand with rescue operations. Teams from Australia, USA, UK, and Japan soon arrived and set about rescuing people still trapped in the rubble of the central city. The New Zealand armed forces and police quickly formed a cordon around the Central Business District to prevent looting. Because of the violent earth movement that occurred, many water and sewage systems ruptured and became inoperative. Electricians, plumbers drainlayers rushed in from all over New Zealand to get the essential services working again.
A phenomenen of this particular earthquake was "Liquifaction " . This is where sand and water are violently mixed to form a slurry that rises to the surface, covering roads and infiltrating peoples homes. Mixed with raw sewage it soon became an evil smelling sludge covering many parts of the city.
It was in this area that a surprising activity took place. Christchurch is a university city with thousands of students resident there. One student, Sam Johnston, rallied his mates around and formed "The Student Army " of many hundreds. This force of young energetic boys and girls, armed with wheel barrows and shovels, set to work to rid the city streets of the liquifaction and help the elderly in their homes. In a matter of days the streets were cleaned of thousands of tonnes of the silt . Also helping were the farming community - the Farmy Army !
Another group was a collection of doctors from all over the world that were attending a convention in Christchurch at the time. They immediately pitched in and assisted with the injured. As the rubble was cleared away , small businesses began to spring up again thanks to the unusual use of large shipping containers.
For the first 18 months, the rebuilding of Christchurch was very slow. All the condemned buildings were removed and the sites cleared. Then came the " thinking period " where engineers analysed the ground and made recommendations for reconstruction. Insurance claims were haggled over and architects began designing bigger and better earthquake proof buildings .
Now with all the formalities over, the "Rebuild" of Christchurch is now underway. On our visits to Christchurch we are amazed how quickly buildings are springing up all over the city ! The main problem the reconstruction teams have is to find enough skilled, and unskilled , tradespeople to fill all the workforce vacancies. Workers from all over NZ, ( and overseas ) have been recruited into the workforce to get things moving.
This sudden "explosion" of building projects has really given NZ a "shot in the arm " as far as unemployment statistics go. As with most other countries, NZ also suffered an economic downturn with unemployment figures rising, so this building boom has come at the right time . It is my opinion, that in another 2 years time, very little evidence of the devastating earthquake will be visable !!
These containers were modified to form shops, coffee houses and business offices. In the centre of Chrisrchurch a complete shopping mall was formed out of shipping containers by stacking them up and linking them by stairs and walkways. So successful is this shopping mall, the locals want to retain it for years to come !!
Some of the worst hit buildings were the churches, including the Christchurch cathedral and the Roman Catholic Basilica.
This Anglican Church in Merivale ( suburb of Christchurch ) is an example of what a lot of churches suffered. ( Note steeple on the ground )
On our frequent visits to Christchurch, we have been amazed at what a vibrant , busy city it has become ! It is also a "City of Traffic Cones" and during the recent two year commemorations, many of these cones were decorated with bunches of flowers put there by the residents in memory of those who lost their lives in the 'quake - rather a nice touch I thought !
PS. Another major catastrophy arose from the 'quake. The one and only factory in New Zealand to make "MARMITE" was badly damaged and was unable to produce any Marmite ! So for two years, us Kiwis have been unable to buy our favourite food. One enterprising shop keeper had a few dozen jars sent from UK, but the authorities found out about his " Illegal Import" and he was forbidden to sell it for some unknown reason. ( Maybe they were scared it had been tainted with horse meat !! )
Anyhow they announced last week that the Marmite factory was now back in production and stocks should be appearing back on the shelves any day now ! Yippee !!
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