Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Post-quake Christchurch (The BAD)

Each year when I go to Antarctica, I spend time in Christchurch, New Zealand for a few days before and after Antarctica. It's a green place, warm in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere summer, and quite friendly. There are good restaurants, and if you've forgotten something from up North, you can find it in New Zealand.

Last year in December and January when I was there, the city was recovering from the September 2010 7.1 magnitude quake. The city was recovering rather well I thought, you can look back to last year's entries and see some damage in photos, but most things were in good shape. Well, not long afterward there was the February 2011 6.3 magnitude quake which caused significantly more damage, and many deaths. 10,000 homes to be demolished. Most of the larger buildings downtown need to be brought down as well.

So, I spent a couple of nights in Christchurch on my way south to Pole, and took a look around...

There are a lot of commercial buildings that look like this now. Standing, but with broken windows and emptied offices. Some are being demolished, others are just fenced off. Probably to be demolished later. The businesses are gone, elsewhere or nowhere.

One can just see the Christchurch Cathedral in the distance, but one can't go any closer. The whole central business district is fenced off, maybe a radius of 4 blocks or so centered on Cathedral Square. I circumnavigated the fencing, seeing lots of abandoned and badly damaged residential and commercial buildings inside and outside the fence line. There were also a number of empty lots of previously demolished buildings. And this is now nine months later!

A church at the periphery of downtown, the roof is collapsed and there are workers who are appearing to try to preserve the bell tower section of the church.

I looked through the window of a coffee shop, and there was still a copy of the 22 February 2011 newspaper sitting on the counter. The building abandoned, it didn't appear too badly damaged, but it was right on the edge of a very dead commercial zone.

Active demolition work and abandoned piles of debris on many street corners.

It was very sad to see the city in this condition. None of the downtown hotels I had previously stayed at were functioning, all were within the exclusion zone. None of the businesses (mostly restaurants, coffee shops, and tourist gift shops) that I knew were extant. Many were inside the fence, some outside the fence had simply vanished, others were closed but some signs were still present.

There was various mentions of blame for the failure of reconstruction on insurance companies unwilling to insure buildings and, in some cases, workers in buildings in Christchurch, and also on safety rules that might be reasonable in ordinary conditions, but that were a huge problem in emergency conditions. Hard for me to tell much about this from a quick visit.

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