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Notes, Links, and Photos from my trip to Christchurch

March 8, 2011

Having just arrived back from New Zealand as part of a work trip (Google.org’s Crisis Response Team) to visit post-earthquake Christchurch and the surrounding areas (to learn and to help), I wanted to share some things I learned and saw while they were fresh in my head.

On February 22 2011, Christchurch, NZ suffered a 6.3 magnitude aftershock, which followed a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September. The February quake caused significant damage to the city and the deaths of >160 people, whereas the initial September quake resulted in no fatalities (but billions in damage otherwise).

The September quake was totally unexpected, up until then, no fault was thought to exist near the city.

Peak acceleration (lateral movement) in the February Christchurch earthquake was 2.2G. For context, last year’s earthquake in Haiti which killed 300k+ “only” measured .5G. Per Wikipedia, a recorded lateral acceleration of 2.2G is the largest ever recorded.

Larger scale disaster (given unknown fault and scale of earthquake) was avoided by New Zealand’s stringent building codes (a pretty significant fault line runs through nearby Wellington and SW-NE through the rest of the country).

The effects of the earthquake upon the silty Christchurch soil were pretty pronounced, in the form of liquefaction. Liquefaction is the conversion of soil into a liquid upon stress (i.e. that from an earthquake) which causes the soil to lose strength and stiffness. This subsequent weakness in the soil was in large part responsible for the collapse of myriad Christchurch buildings, along with the large scale depositing of soil on the ground — liquefaction being forced through weak spots in road/surface.

Here’s a great video from Christchurch demonstrating the liquefaction effect:

Proving the power of the 7P’s, the September quake (with no fatalities) proved an impetus for creating detailed earthquake response plans, which ultimately saved an untold number of lives when the February quake occurred.

In meeting with people affected by the Earthquake, the individual stories they told were pretty astounding, and often heartbreaking. To meet the effects of the quake, we saw humor, charity, and the community coming together.

One example of this coming together, the Student Volunteer Army, really amazed me with the work they were doing. Organizing >15,000 students, the Student Volunteer Army was able to respond to citizen requests for help (jobs), sending teams of students to help out people in need (delivering water, removing silt, etc). Ultimately, thousands of jobs are being done daily to help recover from the earthquake. Louis Brown from the SVA was truly inspiring:

While there, a 4.8 magnitude aftershock happened while eating dinner at a friend of one of our team members. The house swayed for 10-15 seconds, and caused a little bit of excitement among our group (not the case for our NZ hosts, who talked through the whole thing, old hat I suppose).

Some photos from Christchurch and other links:

Aerial photographs from The Press, here.

Google’s Crisis Response page and GeoEye satellite imagery, here

The Christchurch Ushahidi mapping instance for the earthquake, here

More discussion on the power of the quake, here.

Some background on pre-Earthquake Christchurch:

And some photos I captured from the trip:

View all

Or for the more map inclined, a KML of the photos I took here.

Overall, a really good and informative trip, the spirit of New Zealand coming together to assist those in need really was something I’ll remember for a long time.

If you’d like to help, please donate to the Student Volunteer Army, or the NZ Government Appeal.

Filed under: Travel

2 Comments

  • 1. Notes, Links, and Photos &hellip  |  March 9, 2011 at 8:23 am

    […] Having just arrived back from New Zealand as part of a work (Google.org’s Crisis Response Team) trip to visit post-earthquake Christchurch and the surrounding areas (to learn and to help), I wanted to share some things I learned and saw while they were fresh in my head. Google‘s Crisis Response page and GeoEye satellite imagery… View the full blog post […]

  • 2. Hannah84  |  March 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Wow, thanks for sharing this. Stefan and I know a couple that lives there (a groomsmen Doug and his gf Christina) so it hit a little closer to home. Thought I’d share how Doug described it:

    “Yeah it’s pretty massive. Over on the east side of Christchurch it felt like an 8.0 there was that much damage. I’ve biked around my area and not one road was left intact of hundreds, this was much worse than the 7.1 which left things messy enough. We are looking at no less than 16 billion dollars worth of damage. That is $32,000 per person in the city. Crazy numbers crazy times. It looks like we’ll have no water or sewage for months and have been told to wait for at least 10 days to get power back on. To be honest we are some of the lucky ones to come out of this.”


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