Christchurch: Earthquake Aftermath

earthquake damage to heritage buildings

So it’s been a month since the 7.1 earthquake that shook the Canterbury plains and brought down chimneys and shop fronts all over Christchurch.

While construction services were very quick to take down a lot of the more seriously damaged buildings, the effects of the earthquake are still evident all over the city. Roads are still cracked and broken, shop fronts are still piled in the street and cordons still exist around buildings that look like they could fall any second.

The picture above shows the damage to an older-style building on the corner of Tuam Street and High Street above the Domo store. At first glance it seems find but you can see a very large and deep crack running right behind the upper facade, directly through the patch of white graffiti. It’s clear that a good shove from behind would push tonnes of bricks down into the street below. You can also see that some of the decorative masonry work along the front of the building has collapsed and fallen into the street which begs the question, when will the next block of masonry fall?

Tuam Street Heritage Building Damage

While some of the footpath is protected by shipping containers, large areas are only protected by some plastic barriers.

A section of Manchester Street, one of Christchurch’s busiest streets, is sill sectioned off due to the danger of buildings collapsing on either side of the street.

I’ve heard from an engineer friend that the heritage trust is pushing for damaged heritage buildings to be rebuilt exactly as they were. The engineers are arguing that this is why they fell in the first place and that they need to be rebuilt to much more modern standards in order to reduce the risk of another collapse in later earthquakes. Saving pretty buildings is one thing but saving lives is another.

South Shore Earthquake Damage

Outside of the city centre, many residential roads are still at risk. Council and home-made signs ask non-residents to stay away from the area to reduce further damage to roads already split by huge cracks.

There’s discussions about the fragile future of one entire suburb which is in danger of being completely reduced and replaced with a park. Apparently the ground beneath foundations has liquefied and become up to 9 metres of silt. Continued aftershocks are preventing the ground from re-solidifying and, 4 weeks after the initial earthquake, there are still portaloos at regular intervals along the roads due to damage to the sewers rendering toilet facilities useless.

Christchurch Earthquake - Damaged Chimneys

At least there’s good news for those with damaged chimneys. Anyone with a seriously damaged chimney can apply for the chimney to be either rebuilt as it was or knocked down completely and replaced with a more modern heating system. Especially handy for those that have been avoiding the high cost of insulating their home and replacing their old wood burners because of the new ECAN laws governing home heater efficiency. Bugger. I should have kicked our chimney over when I had the chance.

Speaking of which, hopefully the insurance companies are re-opening their doors to all those wishing to amend or take out insurance policies. Friends of mine had bought expensive camera equipment just before the earthquake and have been trying to add the equipment to their contents insurance ever since. In the mean time, they’ve been exchanging nervous glances each time an aftershock threatens to bring the ceiling down on their new, un-insured, gear.

Let’s hope Christchurch returns to normal soon. Personally, I’m having a nightmare of a time just getting a stable internet connection out of Telstra Clear. I have a third technician coming to see our place on Wednesday, probably to run some tests and tell me nothing’s wrong again. Great.

  • 30 seconds after I wrote this blog post, we had another aftershock of around 5 on the richter scale and a photo frame fell off our bookshelf and shattered on the floor.

    Do I really need to take everything back off the shelves again?

  • Johan

    What else can you write about apaert from the earthquake? Is there nothing else happening in your little world?

  • Thanks Johan for your constructive comment! You’ll be super-excited to know that I have a new blog post coming up that is all about trousers!! Woot!!! No kidding!! If you post your phone number here, I’ll even give you a call as soon as it’s live so you can be the first to read it!!!!! How cool is that?!?!

    In the meantime, to change the subject from earthquakes, why don’t you check out this blog featuring lesbians that look like Justin Bieber. I’ll give you a call as soon as it’s safe to come back.

  • That’s great. I really like trousers :-) And back to reality – Have you seen the crack in the HarbourLight Theatre in Lyttelton? Looks like the whole giant facade is going to fall at any second, despite the patch shore up job they’ve done. It would take out the shops across the street and cars in front if it goes.

  • Nope haven’t seen that one. Man that’d suck if that fell down – particularly for the other shops as well! Christchurch needs one seriously big tub of crack filler.

  • Vi

    It looks terrible :( Hopefully there won’t be any more casualties overnight.