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'Significant damage' from Christchurch quake

Interview with Christchurch Mayor


After visiting the quake-stricken Canterbury region today, Labour leader Phil Goff said he was impressed by the strength of those left homeless by the 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

"People are remarkably resilient and upbeat considering their experience," he told NZPA.

"I was talking to a couple who were moving all their possessions out onto a trailer from a house that was obviously only going to be fit for demolition. They were saying things like 'well, it could be a lot worse, think of the people in Pakistan where their homes and property have been destroyed, they have nobody to help them out, their kids are suffering from disease'... so people, I think, are being incredibly strong."

Mr Goff spent the day in the region, and said he was struck by how extensive the damage was, not only in the central city.

"You see that damage right across the community, driving down roads where every second chimney has broken off and smashed through the roof of houses," he said

In Pine's Beach, near Kaiapoi, he said many houses had simply slipped off their foundations and sunk into the sand.

Despite their ordeal, people still retained their sense of humour.

"One young lady there on a bike... said, 'I slept through it all until a picture fell off the wall and hit me in the head'."

Labour's MP for Christchurch Central, Brendon Burns, was unable to return to his damaged house and was staying with friends, Mr Goff said.

"Another colleague who still hasn't had the water restored and she said, 'well, I put a lot of perfume on this morning'."

Mr Goff said the latest Civil Defence briefing he attended this afternoon said 60,000 people were still without water supplies and another 10,000 without power. An estimated 100 water mains had been broken but already a quarter were repaired.

After passing shops where the whole front, verandahs and roofs had collapsed on the pavement, Mr Goff said the timing of the quake was "fortunate".

"If that had happened at 4.30 in the afternoon and not 4.30 in the morning, literally scores of people in those shops and pedestrians outside the shops would undoubtedly have been killed."

But the impact on the city's historic buildings was significant, he said. He saw a whole rose window, which had fallen out of the Coptic Church on Edgeware Road, but remained intact - "quite remarkable".

"But you think, a lot of historic buildings that might not be able to be repaired and this is a city that prided itself on the preservation of its history."

He said people were yet to see how extensive the underlying damage was, but every contractor in Christchurch was out trying to restore services to people.

"This won't take days or weeks, it will take months to restore everything to where it was.

"But I think we celebrate the fortunate side of it, we pull together as a country in support of the community in Christchurch and Canterbury and we know that we are in a country that at any time there might be an earthquake in anyplace, so we treat it as a learning experience and do what we can to help out."

Groom Roderick Smith and his bride Nina refused to let the Christchurch earthquake interrupt their wedding day on Sunday and used the destruction as a backdrop for their wedding photos.

"All the places we were going to do photos were blocked (so) what we've been doing is driving around and finding nice looking rubble and making the most of a bad situation," Nina told the Stuff website.

The chapel where they held the wedding was unscathed but the reception venue was unusable so the party packed into a coffee shop instead.
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Another Christchurch resident Nigel Smith spent Saturday using his four-wheel drive to pull stuck cars out of people's driveways.

"Something like this brings people together," he said. "It's amazing how everyone has come out and is helping each other."

Although the streets were strewn with rubble and shattered glass, and large holes and fissures had appeared in main roads, civil defence officials believed they had the situation under control.

Key said it looked like a scene out of a movie: "The roads were just ripped apart. I saw a church completely broken in half."

The night before terrified Christchurch residents were tossed from their beds before dawn as their houses cracked and buckled around them amid the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

They staggered outside to a mess of crumbled buildings, crushed cars and uprooted roads which Prime Minister John Key described as looking like parts of the city had been "put in the tumble dryer and been given a darn good shake".

But once the initial shock at Saturday's quake had subsided a bold attitude took over, underscoring the resilience associated with people in the Canterbury region -- the second-largest residential district in the country.

With electricity and water supplies cut, neighbourhood barbecues were quickly organised as families pooled food and water supplies.

In rural areas, farmers set up a network of generators to ensure all morning milking would be completed as quickly as possible.

Throughout the day the media arrived to collect stories of survival and found "an astonishing atmosphere of resilience", the Sunday Star-Times reported.

"A community rallied and shared its bottled water with its neighbours ... even those who had lost almost everything were remarkably upbeat."

Yet, offers of assistance from the United States military and from various United Nations programs were turned down, said civil defence director John Hamilton.

"I suppose they're probably surprised that we turned down their offers of assistance because in most cases an earthquake of the magnitude that we've experienced would inevitably result in high casualty numbers and the need for humanitarian assistance," he said.

"We're very grateful that the offers were made and fortunately we were able to say 'not required'."

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