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Christchurch reels but begins to regroup


NEWS
Filed by Lucire staff/March 4, 2011/8.17


Christchurch
Above A car is left on top of the rubble once a house on Bealey Avenue, across from the cordoned-off city under a state of emergency.

Christchurch was known as the most English of New Zealand cities. It was the garden city and one of the most liveable and safest places in the world. None of that applies any more. It’s etched in the unnerving faces of people who still remain: those that believe in fight, not flight.
   It will be become known as of now as the city that suffered two the worst earthquakes on record in New Zealand.
   On the streets, cafés, restaurants and supermarkets, you don’t see many smiles any more. People say to someone they may not know: ‘How did you get on?’’
   Some answer, ‘We’re OK. We’re living with our in-laws,’ or ‘with friends. We lost our house.’ Anything less doesn’t matter. Sadly for many hundreds and thousands, they have lost family and friends. We have seen and heard too much horror. We yearn for normality.
   Few people in Christchurch don’t know a friend, or friend of a friend, who perished in the terrible February 22 earthquake in a city, which until six months ago, was a peaceful, thriving business and tourist gateway to the South Island.
   The city’s tourist website says Christchurch has a heritage heart, a sense of adventure and plenty of nineteenth-century stone buildings.
   The soul of Christchurch’s heritage has been buried in the wreckage after the terrifying quake at 12.51 p.m. on February 22 which claimed hundreds of lives. The sense of adventure has turned into fear, sadness, anger and despair for many people.
   But keep in mind a lot of the city is still intact. Many suburbs and parts of the cordoned central city will be revived and will resume business again soon. There is a resilience and emotional attachment by the proud people of Christchurch that staggers visitors. You can see the determination in the whites of their eyes. The majority of Christchurch people are still here, working, boxing on, rebuilding, with help from thousands of outside helpers, volunteers, emergency crews. We are not running away. We are overwhelmed by the nation’s support and concern.
   Sadly, this is no ordinary city any more. The annual Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park was expected to attract more than 65,000 visitors next week. Many of the tents put up for the show have been used to house the homeless who have to flee their shattered homes ruined by the Earth’s menacing ruptures and fissures.
   Other parts of Hagley Park are full with motorhomes and Portaloos for temporary living. The eastern suburbs have been heavily hit with broken storm-water and sewer pipes. The health risk of a ‘poo-nami’ out east is often talked about. Many badly-hit streets are a ghost town, as people who could get out have left.
   Supermarkets are open and these have been restocked to feature extra shelves of bottled water, torches, batteries, antiseptic hand cleanser and toilet paper—the five most sought-after survival items.
   Thousands of people are still without electricity, water or access to toilets. Trying to fetch for basic provisions is difficult because of the buckling damage done to roads. It is dark at night in areas without power and people are feeling vulnerable. Around 27,000 houses are still without power around white-powdered, dusty, embattled streets.
   Thousands of Portaloos are needed out east. No one says how long they will be deployed. All Christchurch people—other than the 40,000–60,000 that fled after February 22—still need to boil water before drinking or cleaning teeth.
   Waterways are contaminated with untreated sewage. Liquefaction silt, just like sand which rose out of the ground across the city as the earthquake struck, is sewage-contaminated. High winds this week have whipped up the dust blanketing the shaken city. Dusk masks are a common sight. Threat of disease lingers.
   Schools remain closed. Some may not reopen this year. Some doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies are closed. People are anxious, but fear decreases daily. Like its iconic entombed cathedral, Christchurch will rise again.—Kip Brook, Word of Mouth Media NZ

Kip Brook is an occasional contributor to Lucire, and a London bureau chief correspondent.

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