In the aftermath of the devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, attention quickly turned away from a much smaller, but also highly destructive earthquake that struck the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, just a few weeks earlier, on Feb. 22. Both events are stark reminders of human vulnerability to natural disasters and provide a harsh reality check: Even technologically advanced countries with modern building codes are not immune from earthquake disasters. The Christchurch earthquake carried an additional message: Urban devastation can be triggered even by moderate-sized earthquakes.
You know you are from Christchurch when you manage to keep your sense of humor through a year of nonstop hardship. This phrase, coined by Christchurch native Bruce Raines, exploded on Facebook and takes on a multitude of equally morose and light-hearted endings. These phrases accurately capture the spirit of the local inhabitants after a series of earthquakes and aftershocks rocked the city, dramatically changing life for all Cantabrians. Homes and historic buildings were leveled, and everyday luxuries such as electricity and plumbing were lost. However, while those of us on the outside watched the disaster unfold for a few days, we were able to safely return to our heated homes and refreshing showers. To this day, many Cantabrians are stuck in a permanent camping mode: boiling water, and using primitive outhouses when available. In the December issue of EARTH magazine, learn more about how the citizens of Christchurch are coping with the disaster, one aftershock at a time."
On Feb. 22, a magnitude-6.1 earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, killing nearly 200 people and causing $12 billion in damage. About three weeks later, a massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck northern Honshu, Japan. The quake and tsunami killed about 30,000 people and caused an estimated $310 billion in damage. Both events are stark reminders of human vulnerability to natural disasters and provide a harsh reality check: Even technologically advanced countries with modern building codes are not immune from earthquake disasters.