The post I never wanted to have to write.
Canterbury earthquake, 22 February 2011
This was supposed to be a happy post. The year started so well. This was supposed to be about the wonderfully inspiring Webstock conference, the mind-expanding weekend that was Kiwifoo, the concerts we were lucky enough to attend (Sufjan Stevens, Tricky, Amanda Palmer & Jason Webley – all in the span of 3 weeks), the exciting things that are happening at work.
But then, the world started to crumble. Not for us, not directly, anyway. But in our country, and for our friends. And suddenly, everything took on a new perspective.
At 12:51 pm on February 22, during lunchtime on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch. Unlike the big 7.1 quake in September 2010, this one was shallower and closer, and it occured in the middle of the day. Because of that, it caused significant damage and loss of lives. It hit just when the people of Canterbury, who have been enduring thousands of aftershocks over the past six months, were slowly starting to get back to normal life. There are no words to describe how deeply this quake is cutting right to the heart of this nation.
As usual, Wikipedia is doing a good job of summarising the facts and providing links to further sources, so in the interest of getting this post up quickly, I won’t try and recap all the details. A week later, we’re barely grasping just how big the impact is. A national state of emergency has been declared, and search and rescue operations continue – as I’m writing this, there are still more than 200 people missing. There are still entire neighbourhoods without electricity, water, or working sewerage systems, living amongst the ruins of their homes, surrounded by liquefaction. Thousands have fled the city – will they come back? What happens after the cleanup – can we even rebuild on such unstable ground? What will be the impact on the economy? (Current cost estimates are at $16 billion – but who knows?) Not to mention the national psyche – will we ever feel safe in our own homes again? (Last night, a 4.5 quake rattled Wellington, which made everyone very jumpy – yet Christchurch had 20 aftershocks bigger than 4.5 within just 24 hours of the big one.)
As horrifying this all has been, the disaster has also brought out the best in people. Everywhere, local communities are sharing what they have and support each other. Within an hour of the quake, dedicated people in the New Zealand IT community put out eq.org.nz, an open-source based site with maps, links to services and other essential, crowd-sourced information, and they have worked tirelessly since then to keep it up to date. Words cannot describe the respect and admiration I have for everyone who has contributed to this effort.
Kia kaha, Christchurch.
How you can help
The earthquake may have disappeared from the international media already. However, the people of Christchurch will struggle with its consequences for a long time to come. Here are some ways to help:
- Donate to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal or the New Zealand Goverment’s Christchurch Earthquake Appeal – they provide much-needed support and services to those affected by the quake.
- Volunteer to help updated the open-source, community-driven Christchurch Recovery Map.
- Send a message of support through amos.org.nz – messages will be printed and put on walls for everyone to see.
- Christchurch Recovery Map – a community project providing information and services.
- “There are THREE cities in Christchurch right now, not one.” – very moving blog post by Peter Hyde, a Christchurch resident about the affect of the quake of different parts of the cities, and a call for help for those forgotten by the authorities and the media.
- Pictures of Christchurch before and after the quake (link to stuff.co.nz)
- Image gallery of the aftermath of the quake (link to nzherald.co.nz)
- Press photos on The Atlantic and The Big Picture