Rescue teams are working around the clock to help victims of a devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand after the natural disaster – measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale – struck at lunchtime yesterday. This is second major tremor to hit the city in six months, as a stronger but less damaging earthquake struck in September 2010.
Rebuilding estimates for damage caused by the previous earthquake were around NZ$4bn however costs are set to spiral out of control following yesterday’s attack. At the time of going to press, estimations for the death toll were hovering between 80-100, although many residents are still thought to be trapped under piles of collapsed rubble.
Reports from the city have also suggested that ‘liquified’ sub-strata beneath the buildings will have a dramatic effect on long-term rebuilding efforts. Numerous structures have been reduced to rubble, including two large office towers – the Pyne Gould Building and Canterbury Television Headquarters – while the ornate spire of Christchurch Cathedral toppled to the ground in a cloud of dust. Local police have referred to the destroyed Canterbury Television Headquarters as 'unsurvivable'.
Christchurch City Council had been considering a proposal which dictates that all landlords are to ensure that older buildings are fully earthquake-resistant within the next 30yrs, however this has been met by outrage from heritage groups who have suggested that operations could total NZ$500m. Current building practice states that all new structures must be designed to withstand powerful earthquakes.
Christchurch Superintendent Russell Gibson referenced the extent of human casualties in an interview with Radio New Zealand: “We’ve been pulling 20 or 30 people out of [the office] buildings right throughout the night. They are trapped in cars, crushed under rubble and, where they are clearly deceased, our focus unfortunately at this time has turned to the living. We are getting texts and tapping sounds from some of these buildings, and that’s where our focus is at the moment.”