New Zealand Learning Adventures (Home)

English Culture and Volcano Zone



Deadly Earthquakes

Photos  Sept 2010  7.1

Photos Feb 2011  6.4

Photos May 2011 CBD



KANES  take interested groups to view the damage of New Zealand's most devastating Earthquakes of 2010 & 2011.

This is a rare and most valuable learning experience to follow how people are coping with an this most unusual calamity.

Area affected
The world news lead people to believe "all of new Zealand was destroyed".  The truth: Christchurch is a tiny dot on the NZ map and only 20% of that dot was badly damaged. Christchurch continued operating normally for most of its 400,000 residents. New CBD plan is developing. 

All possible hazards are fenced.
The broken buildings are being demolished or repaired.

The quake brings to reality reasons we learn about:- tectonics,  fault identification,  measurements,  liquefaction,  building damage, construction requirements, hazards, emergency practices,  tsunamis, and recovery programmes.  




Gain a true perspective (August 2011) and the story
City Population                   - 400,000*
No who left the city -                4,000* (1%)

No of deaths                       -  185 
(Over 134 deaths from 2 collapsed buildings) 
Annual road toll                   -  360*
No. of births in 1st  week      -   68

No. of buildings in            -  5400
No. of buildings collapsed -     10   (entirely)
No. to be demolished       -  1200
No. to be repaired             - 1100
No. safe to operate          -  2300
No. of lost jobs in CBD    -    900*

No. of homes in city        -      200,000*
No of homes to be demolished   7,000*

Broken sewer drains            -  140 km
Anglican (only) churches     -    19 destroyed  (4 are ok)
Number of insurance claims -   360,000
Liquefaction removed            -  535,000 tonnes

Estimated cost to rebuild                       -   $30b*
Number of after shakes in first 18 months - 10,000

*  Numbers may vary by up to 20%.

Places of interest to KANES  visitors
Central CBD                            -  Closed for 3 years
Chinese Restaurant (Pagoda)  - Closed
Cathedral  (in the square)    -  Closed
Catholic Cathedral      -     Closed
Road to Lyttelton Port  -  Closed 
Art Centre              -     Closed 
Rugby Stadium     -    Closed 
Museum              -   Open & operating
Glass Art Gallery  -  Open  (Civil Defense HQ)
Antarctic Centre -   Open & operating
Lyttleton Tunnel -  Open & operating
Port (epicentre) - Open & operating 
Railways       -   Open & operating
Airport        -     Open & operating

Time Line for the story  (Start from the bottom)

March 2012
More people are leaving their broken homes as they are being repaired or demolished in the eastern suburbs. New replacement buildings in the CBD are now being constructed.  Still over 500 CBD buildings are yet to be demolished.  You can see the big hydraulic jaws large on diggers chewing and shattering the concrete structures separating out the reinforcing iron all ready for recycling.  Many remaining condemned buildings have multi stories some less that 10 years old.  There are lots of noises and trucks at the demolition sites.  so strange with no shoppers and no cars to be seen on the once busy streets.   The business from here have been moving to the undamaged western suburbs and this is causing traffic difficulties at rush hours.   

12  Aug  2011
The city's damaged CBD is changing its look as the thousand damaged buildings are systematically demolished with hundreds of truck loads of debris being taken to a big area be recycled. 

The dumping of waste water into the ocean is being reduced substantially now and is expected to stop by September as the worst of the broken drains are repaired, replaced and discarded.

There are still families living in many of the 5000 irreparable homes.  Most have electricity water now but there is a larger proportion without drains.  (Note; there are 130,000 homes that are not damaged)

About 3 weeks ago the city was covered with cm of snow it was another challenge and beautiful and exciting as it was the word went around it "was the icing on the quake" It is all gone now.

Around 4000 after shocks to date. They are reducing but still occurring  The numbers are over

The huge rugby stadium and 2 cathedrals still have uncertain futures. Reports are not giving us hope for there survival. 

Ideas and plans for the future of the CBD and eastern suburbs are being made public and showing that the city's CBD will be made up of new a low rise buildings and maybe a light rail system while the eastern suburbs will be adorned with more space and delightful parklands around the river.  We will see this after 10 years and several $b expenditure. 

June 23
Most damaged areas in the Eastern suburbs occurred near the meandering Avon River. Liquefaction and slumping of the homes has been the main cause for them breaking. Residents here can collect a full government valuation for their land before the quake and claim insurance for their buildings.  Volunteers are out on large numbers again clearing the mud that washed up from the ground during the 3rd big shake that damaged this part of the city. Sprits of the residents are low. 

14 June
(6.3) earthquake again hit the city’s closed off CBD and Eastern suburbs. (20% Christchurch's area).  Scores more houses & 100 more buildings in the fenced off CBD areas have been added to the demolition list.  The estimated extra cost is $5b.  One elderly man in a rest home fell and later died. Two people were admitted to hospital.  The rest of the south Island was not affected. Reports say 60 injuries reported  15 people kept in hospital. Lots of You Tube videos Power is now been restore to most of the

13 June  2011
Reports coming in are indicating the more liquefaction than as the Feb event.  There are more broken buildings in the fenced off CBD and more rocks are falling from the Sumner cliffs .  No serious injuries or fatalities reported. 

Buildings at risk have been closed or removed so not expecting many injuries.

The reports are saying many roads are again closed, bent, broken and flooding. The Avon River is flooding its banks in places (that makes me wonder if the whole city has tilted a little yet the tide is high).  Streets are jammed as 100s of thousands of people creep home.  Power was off to 54,000 homes but this will improve quickly. There is more damage to water and drain systems.

The airport is open and operating and its a warm sunny winter day. 


Reports on the Feb 2011 Earthquake

Three months after the Feb Quake June 2011
Christchurch is a sad city. 
Many residents are still having difficulty and receiving medical support.  The central CBD is still closed and buildings are being torn down by large machines everywhere.  One insurance company has had to seek help to ensure it can meet its claims.  Businesses are slowly opening as the debris and damaged buildings are removed and made safe.  Eastern suburb homes are still without normal toilets as the broken drains have to be replaced. Temporary water and power connections are operating for all inhabited homes.

The special geography of this event
The energy released by this earthquake (after shock) was one 8th of that of the September event.  The horrible devastation was caused because the energy release was concentrated within a 7 square km area that unfortunately included the CBD and eastern suburbs of Christchurch. Here the "acceleration" or shaking force was much greater that the September event. The "epicentre" of the quake was just 5km deep (Sept one was 33km below) and it was 3km from the the city centre (when the last event was over 40 km from the city). - hence the devastation. The fault that moved had been stable for 16,000 years.

Report 30 March
While the rest of New Zealand is working normally the "no go" cordon around the CBD of Christchurch is slowly being reduced as the clean up continues and buildings are made safe. Power is fully restored to the city now and most have water.  Repairs to the drains and roads are high on the priority.  There are cranes, diggers, loaders, trucks and dust all around the effected part of the city. Some CBD businesses are beginning to open as their buildings are declared safe and the excluded area shrinks.  There are, however,  frustrations at the system being slow, understaffed and pedantic processes while so many others are doing nothing; while they wait to be "allowed" to access their properties and businesses many of which have undamaged buildings and unsecured stock and plant .  Most businesses are not allowed access their stock and plant to move elsewhere. Traffic is very different now and many residents are becoming resigned to an unknown future in the hands of the government authorities. Major traffic thoroughfares are closed causing gridlocks in many inner city areas while the once always busy streets are so deathly quiet in the CBD.  Most of the city malls and markets are full of shoppers every day.  Those in those few malls in the quake area lie damaged, quiet, cold, locked and deserted. The optimists are dreaming of a new ultra modern city centre with the latest and future designs rather than the old ornate grandeur of the past.

Report Day 13  March 6
To day business owners and residents will have a limited access to some parts of the CBD to access their property. It seems there were no people caught in the material that fell in the cathedral.

Report Day 11  March 4 2011
As work continues 24 hrs a day to make the CBD safe and recover bodies authorities are holding cordons tight. Some residents and hotel guests have special very restricted passes to access accommodation when deemed safe. For western suburbs life is quite normal.  In the eastern suburbs those who stay on have a hole in the yard for a toilet or walk to the end of the street to use a portable toilet.  They can use a visiting mobile shower unit and carry water from tankers placed around the areas.  Fund raising is being carried out worldwide and these are being distributed for food, emergency supplies, and special accommodation. everyone is grateful for the help offered Today is Red & Black day. (these are the sports colours for the area) 

Report Day 10  March 3
Only one body was recovered by 1000 workers. Nice weather, CBD still blocked off. Police arrested 3 people last night in the area. Irritations with the slow pace of progress is being expressed.   About 40 more bodies are yet to be recovered and maybe 1,000 buildings must be "made safe" (demolished) using heavy machinery.  Around 4,000 business owners and residents want to recover their computers, software records and valuable equipment so they can assess where they stand and look to find how they might restart their lives for themselves and their staff.  Thousands of cars are parked, un-damaged, on the streets and intact parking buildings. 

Report Day 9  March 2
String hot irritable winds will to stir up the dust and the residents today. Businesses are rushing for rental space in the western suburbs.  State of emergence re-declared for another 7 days. More volunteers moving to help the residents remove up to a metre of sandy mud in the streets and around houses. Discussions are looking forward accepting that the most of the old buildings will be absent from the new city. There will be more space, more parks and gardens. Amazing inspirational stories of bravery, initiative and endurance are being seen.

Report Day 8  March 1
Two minute of silence to be 1 week after the event. This is being carried out through out NZ and some parts of the world CBD Closed down.  Questions being asked how two of the biggest killer buildings (of about 150 people) were cleared for safety after the last big shake.   Work is beginning to recover the (20*) bodies in the 3rd killer building, the Cathedral.  Teams of volunteers and experts are organised to gather information then deliver the help to where it is most needed for people in the eastern suburbs. Priorities of council is to get the water, power and sewage working.  Processing of the dead is very slow and is causing frustrations for for loved ones.

Report Day 7
Fear of more rock falls Near Sumner.  More cliff top houses evacuated Clean up of liquefaction, repairs to water sewage and power continuing.  Teams of neighbours working together in the suburbs. Rescue teams helping with food, accommodation and support as individually needed.  The buildings are being assessed for degree of danger. Dangerous buildings are being destroyed by demolition teams.

Report Day 5
The process of identifying the dead continues with names are being released slowly. 20 bodies are expected to be recovered from the Cathedral.  Eastern suburbs are without power, tap water and toilets and will be that way for sometime yet. Food, water and toilet are being sent in to those folk that have not left the area. Fear of danger from Leaning Grand Chancellor is reducing and it may be entered soon. (it will be demolished) Help arriving from everywhere.

Report Day 4
This is a grim day as the dead are now removed and the names released. The recovery of victims continues.  A 600 Search & Rescue volunteers now from worldwide are now in the city.  They are clearing most of the victims of the event caught in 4 of the completely destroyed buildings.  Teams are looking for the remaining missing people from the other destroyed buildings and likely places . Some teams are to help those "camping" in the eastern suburbs.  People without homes are offered billets with families in the undamaged suburbs and the surrounding towns. Hundreds of students are helping clean up damaged neighborhoods

Report Day 3
The world countries are sending in specialised search & rescue teams to supplement those gathering from various centres around New Zealand. Water trucks and porta-loos are being arranged for the Eastern suburbs.  Streets being cleaned for repair work.  Rescue work in the CBD continues.  A major 26 story hotel in the CBD is beginning to lean and is causing concern. Cell phone service intermittent.  Night curfew around the CBD Military desalination plants served 4,000 with water

Report Day 2
A national state of emergency has been declared. Visitors are being flown out of the city so international rescuers can take the available accommodation. People with sound homes are asked to accommodate. 3000 homeless in emergency shelters at schools and sports grounds. Power cut to 90% of the city. 80% of the city has no tap water. Eastern suburbs are not able to use their toilets. CBD is completely evaluated except for organised rescue teams. Many roads and bridges in the eastern suburbs impassable, huge liquefaction deposits. Airport closed to all but emergency flights.

Considerable loss of life expected

Feb 22nd 1pm
Christchurch has been rocked by a more severe earthquake than the first felt in many parts of the South Island. Reports of injuries and collapsed buildings are coming in.  A witness told Radio New Zealand a church had fallen to the ground. The town centre is packed with people, hugging and crying, while the concrete had lifted in places with trees uprooted and the Avon River has turned brown, she said Loss of life expected

Tuesday 22 Feb 2011 (Lunch Time).
A huge land wave (estimated 1 m high) rolled through the CBD and eastern suburbs
throwing cars off the roads. 

Sadly 2 multi storied office blocks collapsed and killed 134 while another 47 people lost their lives elsewhere with falling debris from 900 damaged buildings

About 4000 buildings in the CBD stayed in tact and about 25,000 people went home to their families. The epicentre was under the city.

Report on the main quake 4th Sept  2010

An average of 18 earthquakes over 7 strength occur on the planet annually. Most are harmlessly remote from major settlements.

The land in the “English Culture & Volcano Zone” came from river gravels from the eroding (& uplifting) Southern Alps. There are areas of  fine sands laid in some pockets. As the the English settlement grew the areas of soft mud and fine sands were developed and today these places sustained most damage (I guess about 8% of the city). When the quake hit mud spouted like geysers out of the ground covering yards (up to a metre deep in some places).

Crevasses and mounds materialised in just one minute.

Geologists say this fault has not moved for 16,000 years

The community swings into action
The first message was to check your neighbours and clean up the chaotic mess inside their homes. No water, over flowing sewage pipes continuing large after shocks and no power added to the distressed. Some people could not get out of their bent houses.  Civil defence set up safe areas for the traumatised and homeless. A state of emergency was declared. The CBD was closed to stop all but essential services. Over the first two days the power people restored electricity to 90% of the city and the water people set about repairing the water pipes.

 Authorities visited the worst affected buildings assessing the degree of safety and placing notices on each: “Safe”  “Restricted Use”  & Unsafe”  Diggers and drain layers began digging and replacing the pipes while pumps and generators provided the essential services to the distraught residents. Sewers were kept clear by tank cleaning teams.  

In the CBD about a dozen obviously unsafe buildings and those that had collapsed are being cleared away.  Four were currently being pulled down at the time I was there. About 10 cranes were in the CBD streets lifting assessors and repairers on to various buildings to carry out their jobs. 

 All schools and universities were closed.  University students set up volunteer teams and were out with shovels and wheelbarrows helping residents clear the liquefaction deposits and bricks from private homes.

The Buildings
In the CBD it seemed to me about half of the few pre 1920 buildings were badly damaged and declared for “restricted access only”.  Steel “bandages” are being placed on a number of buildings that are damaged but probably saveable. 

 Most newer buildings in the CBD and the earthquake strengthened heritage buildings did not suffer irreparable damage.. 80% of businesses are now operating again.

 About half the brick chimneys in the city were broken, many old brick walls collapsed and cracked. They say 2500 buildings have been significantly damaged. 

 The pockets of liquefaction in the sandy low lands around the river mouths & coasts are where major structural damage occurred.  Here places broke, sank and tilted. Underground concrete drain access facilities “floated” up to 20cm above the road in some areas. Broken sewer and water and pipes are everywhere. 

Along the fault, (about 20 km away in the farmlands), fences and roads that displaced about a metre have now crept to 4 metres with the after shocks. Some farm land was so badly cracked it seems to be unusable for animals.

2 weeks Later
For the visitor things are now back to normal. You can still see all the places of interest to visitors and most restaurants and accommodation suppliers are operating as normal.  To find the damage you need to look harder to find the areas and buildings that were damaged. For the community there are expected to be about 100,000 claims in insurance for cracks, broken walls windows and furniture windows. About 2,500 buildings have had to be evacuated for major repairs or demolition.

I took a visit to Christchurch to check out the this life time event and they say New Zealand’s most expensive natural disaster to date.  (now estimated to cost $4b). The places we visit with our tours held up well and are almost all operating again.

3 weeks Later
After shocks exceeded 3000; most over 3.  About 10% over 4 and a few over 5 on the Rtr scale. They are frightening to many and disrupt sleep. Stories are copious. The local public earthquake commission engineering staff  has swollen from 3 to 300. They are beginning the huge task of prioritising and visiting the thousands of damaged properties that made claims on their insurance policies.

Dangerous buildings are being repaired or dismantled very fast, people are working together, unknown neighbours have now found new friends, and the pockets of the city most badly hit are now settling down and will be back to normal soon despite the continuing shakes.

Dec 26th 10am
Just as the shops were opening after Christmas another major after shock (5.7) bought down bricks and mortar into the streets of the CBD . Luckily there were no injuries but the area was closed off, causing more more financial losses for the businesses, as 3000 buildings were assessed by an army of engineers.  There are now around 164,000 claims and 4,500 after shocks.

See also:- 


Link to more photos 

take you there and tailor your experiences to meet your interests