On the 4th September, 2010, at 4:35am, a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Canterbury province. The quake was centred 40km west of Christchurch, near the town of Darfield. It was 10km below the surface. It caused widespread damage to buildings, and two people were seriously injured. No one was killed in the quake, although the news media reported that one man suffered a heartattack and died. The main quake was felt across the South Island, with reports that the people in the lower parts of the North Island felt it also.
Over the next few months, more than 4,000 aftershocks have been felt. An aftershock is another earthquake that occurs after the main one, in the same area. These aftershocks were as strong as magnitude 5.3. Geologists knew that a large aftershock of approximately 6 magnitude could occur, but this did not eventuate in the following weeks, and as the months passed they hoped that it would not happen.
At 12:51pm, Tuesday, 22nd February 2011, disaster struck. A powerful 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Canterbury region. The earthquake was much closer to Christchurch. It was centred only 2 kilometres from the town of Lyttelton, and 10 kilometres from Christchurch. The quake was at a depth of 5km, and there was a violent sideways motion. This quake caused widespread damage and multiple fatalies. Although the magnitude of this earthquake was lower than the September quake, the power was much stronger. Many buildings collapsed causing injuries to many people and trapping others inside. More than 100 people were killed and thousands injured. Some reports say that this was the most powerful earthquake ever experienced in New Zealand.
The time of the earthquake meant that many people were at work or in the city centre. Office buildings collapsed, and although many people were able to escape with minor injuries, many were trapped or killed. Some areas of the city were flooded due to burst water pipes, and the supply of drinking water was disrupted. Because sewerage pipes were also damaged, any remaining supply of water may have been contaminated. Christchurch residents were advised to boil all water for at least three minutes, to kill bacteria. Portable tanks of water were taken to the city, so that that people could go and fill containers for drinking water.
Many countries were quick to offer assistance. Search and rescure teams arrived from Australia, Japan, Britain, and the United States of America. Many people and businesses have donated money to the people of Christchurch, to assist aid organisations, such as the Red Cross, in providing food and services to the people.
This disaster has been a tragedy of historic proportions, with the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, stating that it “may well be New Zealand’s darkest day.”