Christchurch before and after

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan took New Zealand’s disaster off the front pages. But Kiwis are struggling with aftershocks, damaged infrastructure, and a rebuilding tab that some estimate will reach $30 billion. I’ve been thinking a lot about Christchurch and the Banks Peninsula since we received an update from Gordon Ogilvie.

He sent the video below and writes, “it was shown recently as part of a huge Earthquake Commemoration Service held in Hagley Park to honour those who died in the quake and those who had helped to rescue survivors. Over 100,000 attended.”

Provincial Court Buildings
Provincial Court Buildings before the quake. This link takes you to an "after" photograph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stone_Chamber9.JPG

Watching the footage really startled me. We made a brief stop in Christchurch in late October 2008, staying two nights with friends in Governor’s Bay. Gordon gave us a fascinating tour of the Banks Peninsula and Christchurch. We loved the sense of history in the city’s downtown core, where heritage buildings stood in contrast to the modern apartment and office buildings that ringed them. Now the modern buildings rise in eerie silence above the rubble of history. [See before and after photos on this site.]

Many other videos show the the impact of the February 2011 earthquake, but the one below may be the most wrenching. It doesn’t appear in a search on YouTube. You can only approach it via the link.

As a video camera from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management rolls through the city’s historic quarter, the only sounds are the swish of leaves tossed by wind, the cheerful chirping of birds. Occasionally we hear a helicopter fly overhead or sirens in the distance.

Other than workers clearing rubble, nothing moves in streets that look bombed. We see smashed vehicles, collapsed roofs, piles of bricks and rubble, twisted beams, shattered glass. A church bell stands naked atop the ruins of a tower. The statue of Shackleton lies face down on the grass.

The spots of normalcy are almost jarring. Red flowers bloom in planter boxes along a street. A row of gaily coloured banners flap in the breeze above the ruins of buildings. Earthquake-resistant modern office buildings stand intact while all about them is chaos and ruin.

Shackleton Memorial
This is what the Shackleton Memorial looked like before the February 2011 earthquake. In the video you'll see the figure lying broken, face down, on the grass.

This is not the city we visited in 2008. The old buildings that gave its centre charm were no match for a major earthquake. A new city will rise like the Phoenix, from the rubble of the old. But the memory of devastation will linger in the minds of all who experienced the earthquake.

If you’ve never visited Christchurch, wander around on one of the tourism sites, such as New Zealand on the Web. Check out the historic buildings, the art, the shopping streets. Then watch this short video (14:37).

Source: Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) and licensed by MCDEM for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand License.

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