Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 22, 2011


Filed under: Catastrophes — by Christopher Bellavita on February 22, 2011

Monday in Christchurch, New Zealand

Tuesday in Christchurch, New Zealand

Five months and 18 days ago, the big one hit Christchurch.

Something slightly less than the big one hit Christchurch  yesterday.  This one was worse than the September 4, 2010 earthquake.  No one died in the September quake.  People died in this one.

“We may be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day,” said the country’s prime minister, John Key.

It’s 10:30, Tuesday night in Christchurch.  Rain is falling.   People don’t want to stay in their houses.  The aftershocks won’t stop. It’s cold outside, 55 degrees.

It is distressingly surrealistic to be halfway around the world listening to live radio — Newstalk ZB radio, from Christchurch  (thanks to the WunderRadio app) — as the survivors talk about their day, their worries, their fears.

One caller mentioned civil defense officials recommended people stay home for at least three days. “That’s a bit scary,” he said.  “Not sure what we’ll do.”

“Do you have enough food and water?” the announcer asked.  The caller sheepishly confessed to thinking about doing that after the September earthquake, but never quite getting around to it.

“I suppose I should have taken care of that,” he said.

“I’m just worried about my children,” says another caller, a woman named Lois, in a distinctive New Zed twang. “They were at children’s care home today. I don’t know what’s happened to them. They are 5 and 8, you know. I don’t know how to find out about them.”

The radio announcer stuttered to make a suggestion.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 22, 2011 @ 8:51 am

Christchurch was a beautiful city. Also apparently directly located over a fault line. So now let’s see what an intelligent industrious people do with that information.
As the physicists take over from the geologists and seismologists in the science of earthquakes and volcanoes because we now are getting the deep earth readings of magma flows perhaps some change will occur in the next 100 years concerning earthquakes.
My understanding is that on March 3, 2011 a Disasters Roundtable Session will be held by the NAS (National Academy of Science) on lessons learned from the Chilean and New Zealand earthquakes and given the multidisciplinary group that shows up (public also welcome on space available basis) that should be an interesting session.
My great sympathy of course to all impacted by the earthquake and hoping that survivors are located quickly under the rubble.
Perhaps Mark Chubb knows if NZ has advanced SAR capability?

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

February 22, 2011 @ 9:13 am

The March 1 NAS Roundtable will deal with Haiti and Chile earthquakes. Bill has the topic and the date wrong; see http://dels-old.nas.edu/dr/f32.shtml

To my knowledge, no American researchers are studying the NZ earthquake. Too bad.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 22, 2011 @ 10:20 am

Thanks for the correction Claire. Memory fades. Also of interest is that apparently the epicenter of this NZ quake was only 4.2 miles down. Last years much deeper.

The importance of that is demonstrated by the Northridge Earthqauke of January 1994 and the Kobe Earthquake one year later. Northridge was 600 miles deep and Kobe 60 miles deep. Kobe was the single most expensive natural hazard event in human history in terms of recovery outlays. Most say Japan spent $175 billion but I personally believe closer to $200-250 billion. Kobe is the largest seaport in Japan and the recovery investment has not paid off since traffic is still not back to pre-Earthquake levels.

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