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Canterbury New Zealand Earthquakes 4th September 2010 and 22nd February 2011

Updated on November 24, 2014

Who'd A Thought It - Earthquakes in Christchurch and Surrounding Areas

This lens covers the two Canterbury earthquakes. Take a look at the first earthquake now and the second earthquake later.

On Saturday 4th September at 4.35 am Canterbury people were shaken, rocked and rolled by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The minute of horror and further aftershocks have changed Canterbury forever. The mayor of Christchurch commented that Life Has Changed For Everyone.

This lens covers this earthquake and the effects on Canterbury people.

What Is An Earthquake?

An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's surface from the movement of faults within it's uppermost layers, creating seismic waves. They are measured with a seisometer or seismograph. A magniute of 3 or less are mostly not felt , whereas earthquakes of magnitude 7 and above can cause serious damage.

The Canterbury earthquake struck 30 km west of Christchurch near the town of Darfield. It happened along a fault line which people did not know existed .

A previous famous New Zealand Earthquake happened in 1931 in the Hawkes Bay North Island measuring 7.8 on the richter scale and killing at least 256 people. There was news of an 85 year old experiencing that one and this most recent one. He said that he did not want to live through another earthquake.

The oldest New Zealand driver aged 104 has lived through three earthquakes , namely the 1929 Murchison Earthquake, the 1968 Inangahua Earthquake and lastly this latest Canterbury earthquake. She was asked if she was frightened. Her answer " No, not really".

Take a look back in time at New Zealands larger earthquakes since 1848


These are smaller earthquakes that occur after the main large earthquake in the same area to enable the crust around the displaces fault plane adjust to the effects of the main shock. They can last for days, weeks and maybe years. Their size, strength, and frequency usually diminish with time. An aftershock can be as high as 1 magnitude lower than the initial large shock.

Aftershocks are still happening in Canterbury. 10 reported as being between 5 to 5.5 magnitude and 70 between 4 and 4.9 magnitude to midday Friday 10th September. There was a very short, sharp aftershock of 5.1 which was very close to Christchurch and shallow and felt very strongly in Christchurch which unnerved many people. Aftershocks could be happening for weeks with a possibility of one greater than 5.5 magnitude, but the likelihood of this happening decreases day by day. One month later they are mainly in the 3's and 2's.

People are stressed from these aftershocks and some have decided to leave the quake zone for a while to catch up and sleep and get away from tremors af varying magnitude. However two weeks later Canterbury is in the recovery phase and life is carrying on as normally as one can.

What Happened Immediately After?

My Personal Experience.

It was extremely lucky that this earthquake happened at 4.35 am when most people were sleeping as no lives were lost. If it had happened at 4.35 pm .....well.... it is too horrific to think about.

I was dozing in bed, as the alarm had already spoken around 4.10 am to waken my husband for an event that day. At 4.35 am there was a long, loud rumble. We looked at each other and thought "What the ....!! Then 'wompha'... the whole house shook violently for what seemed like ages. ,,,,,,, One minute later we were under door frames and urged ( loudly ) the 2 kids to do the same.

The power went off. Luckily we could find 4 small torches, 2 'non battery pump ones' , one on a cell phone and one other. We had a pump radio which lasted for about a minute before requiring re pumping, so we could catch up on the news. My daughter texted some friends. Her English friend's parents contacted relatives in England who knew more about the earthquake than we did!!

We stayed under the door frames for about one and half hours whilst aftershocks were happening. Then went back to bed. My husband changed his plans to leave the city for the day.

Belongings smashed to the ground with the kitchen and pantry floor amess with glass and broken objects. Some plates even neatly arranged themselves vertically in a frypan which was sitting on a microwave underneath the cupboard they were launched from. One wee room had the entire contents of a bookshelf including some shelves on the ground plus a filing cabinet out and angulated and a few small dents and breakages. What amused me ( later in daylight and after a feeble attempt at sleep - interupted by aftershocks, tension and phone calls ) was that some loose objects on top of cabinets were unaffected. Even the daffadils in a vase in the middle of the dining table were in place as if nothing had happened.

The next day we looked at the house damage. Part of the house moved resulting in cracks inside and out.

We had power restored to us around 11am.

We were lucky. Others were not.


An Earthquake Can Produce....

Broken Buildings

eg in the Christchurch Business District

Christchurch Cathedral behind

Cracked Roads

Upset Insides

eg University of Canterbury

Effects On Other People

1. Some peoples houses were cut in half or cracked beyond repair.

2. Many chimneys were lost by falling in the house or beside, even onto cars. Others were cracked badly that they had to be demolished. Tarpulins are placed over the house to protect it.

3. Bricks fell to the ground especially in older building with people having narrow escapes from bricks falling on them in bed.

4. Liquefaction which was particularly bad in several areas. eg Kaiapoi, a township north of Christchurch, and eastern side of Christchurch.

5. Businesses were lost , beyond repair, especially in the inner city with older buildings. It was interesting to note that a long a street mixed with new and old buildings, the newer buildings survived and the older ones next door did not. All buildings had to be inspected for safety before people were allowed inside. The governement is providing financial help to those unable to work. In fact a supermarket in Kaiapoi, a township north of Christchurch, is condemned and the staff ( over 80 of them ) are being helped to be relocated to other supermarkets.

6. Some people were out of power and water for days. I was lucky to be only out of power for 6 1/2 hours and did not notice not having it as I got out of bed later in morning and can easily go without a breakfast cuppa tea. I did not loose water through the quake. However there were leakages on the street where I live and so the water was off for most of a day due to workmen fixing the street. I had water set aside plus fruit juice.

7. Many historic places condemned but efforts are being made to preserve as many as possible even if it is just a section.

8. People are suffering emotionally especially the ones who have lost their homes and in some cases their job as well. Extra counsellors have been seen to the quake zone to help vent their issues.

What Has This Earthquake Created

1. Closures:

: A closure of schools, preschools, and other educational institutes for a week and the university for two weeks. A handful of schools will not be opening and the students either have to be relocated at other schools or buildings put on site of their existing school grounds.

2. Boiling Water:

Major problems with the sewage and water systems and they could mix. Therefore quake zone people had to boil water for at least three minutes to be safe for drinking, cooking in and cleaning teeth for at least 4 days, some areas being longer like in Kaiapoi. Alternatively 3 - 5 drops of bleach can be added to 1 litre of water and waiting 30 minutes before drinking etc.

3. More Temporary Job in some fields, such as:

a. the building industry to rebuild Canterbury

b. insurance and earthquake commission ( EQC ) staff to deal with the thousands of claims.

c. Councellors to meet the needs of the people emotionally. Some people have lost homes, businesses, pets or are just waiting in limbo for assessors to look at their properties and give a verdict.

4. A loss of something for every quake person from a broken plate to a broken home.

Near Death Experiences

Three Examples

1. A couple whose bricks and masonry went flying into the bedroom and onto their bed had a lucky escape. They decided to escape by crawling to the end of the bed first instead of rolling out the side. If they had not woken up or went sideways they would be gone.

2. A young adult female jumped immediately out of bed as the first signs of the quake hit. Bricks were falling onto her bed. If she had not woken or moved immediately she would be in much worse condition.

3. A man was buried under bricks when his chimney crashed through the roof of his 2 storey house. He was taken to hospital where he had part of a foot and toes amputated, broken bones in both legs and a punctured lung. He was put in an induced coma for most of the following week and is out of a life threatening situation now


There were three welfare centre set up for people to stay if they felt unsafe in their homes. Here they received food, water and companionship.

There are phone numbers to call for help including a healthline, earthquake government helpline, envonment Canterbury for unsafe wastes and the normal emergency number 111 if life or property is in danger.

To End On A High

Earhquake Birth

A women was giving birth at the exact monent the earthquake hit. Everyone got drenched by the birthing pool which was used for the long labour Her daughter was born at 4.41am. The women, her husband and daughter went home a few hours later.

Oh No----- Not Again!!

At 12.51pm on 22nd February 2011 a 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook Canterbury.

It was located within 5km of Lyttleton and 5 km of Diamond Harbour and 10 km southeast of Christchurch at a depth of 5 km.

The effects have been catastrophic with Lyttleton, the Christchurch Business District and eastern suburbs being hit the most.

Many people lost their homes, businesses, lives.

Help arrived from all over New Zealand and the world to help in the many tasks to help Christchurch in a time of need, for example, Urban Search and Rescue ( USAR ) for survivors in collapsed and damaged buildings. Many buildings are beyond repair.

Take a look at the following three buildings which received much attention.

The Christchurch Cathedral


The Christchurch Cathedral lost its Spire and was believed that 22 people were buried in the rubble. However recovery teams found no bodies.

There were survivors and lives lost in the following two buildings .

The Canterbury Television Building

Pyne Gould Corporation

What Followed


There were many aftershocks that followed that day and then gradually decreased over the week or so. The 23rd February was an eerie day. The sounds which you could hear were helicopters flying over top and siren sounds around the city. There was not much traffic noise. There was constant coverage on the television for those fortunate to have power.


There were evacuations in some of the hilly areas of Christchurch.

Many people fled Christchurch, some for good , others just temporarily.

Every house is checked for safety of buildings and well being of the individuals.

Distributions of Portaloos and Chemical Toilets

Power and water and being returned to the city over the days and weeks ahead. There was much damage so it is a longer fix than after September 4th Earthquake.

Portaloos and chemical toilets are being distributed to the areas in need.

Help From Everywhere

The main point about this event is that People and Communities started helping those in need, for example:

1. the student army who shoveled silt from the liquefaction which happened all over Christchurch especially in the eastern suburbs which suffered the worst

2. Communities such as Rugby Clubs, situated out of Christchurch were offering accommodation with power, water and flushing toilets

3. the individual person offering a space in their home, hot food for a friend or relative without power or water or help to build long drop in the back yard!!

This is just the start. Many, many people are helping those most in need.

The Earthquake Aftermath in Pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Believe We Can Rebuild - CHRISTCHURCH - Earthquake Tribute by CHRISTCHURCH musicians

One Christchurch musician was inspired to write this song.

Maybe you will get touched by the message and donate to the

Red Cross or Christchurch Relief fund


Have You Got Your..............

Torch for when the power goes off

Water for when the water goes off

Hand Sanitizer for when the water goes off and / or when there are sewage problems and the water is not safe for hand washing.

I was sooo Lucky

I was teaching keyboard to a young student at a school in Halswell, about 15 minutes drive (non rush hour traffic ) from the inner city when the earthquake struck. The whole room shook at length at all angles causing a whiteboard and a couple of guitars to fall to the floor. The school met on the field for roll call and instructions. Parents came rolling in and children were signed off so they could go home.

My afternoon students either went home or did not feel comfortable for lessons, except one whose mother had come to pick him up. We went into the music room, turned the lights and keyboard on and had a lesson.

I was told I should go home . It took nearly one and a half hours to return home for a trip that usually takes 15 - 20 minutes. One chap driving the other way pulled down his window and commented to me that he needed a bigger car and I said 'One with wings' ,jokingly; one aftershock felt like cruising in a boat over big cross wakes of other passing boats; and nearer the university five young people were sitting on student type armchairs all in a row on the footpath - drinking beer and being amuses at the huge traffic jam!!

I could not believe the devastation and severity of the situation when I was informed at home.

Even though my driveway had a little liquefaction and house was more damaged than in September with more breakages and things on the floor in every room, I did not know of anybody who lost their life and I can continue living in the house.

Power was restored that evening and water the next evening.

My husband was able to keep working after a couple of days off for safety checks of the work place . And he can get safe drinking water from his works artesian well.

Some people lost their business or house or someone or a combination of these.

To help these people restore their lives, it is money they need.

This event has been classed as New Zealand's darkest day.

What Are Your Thoughts

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    • profile image

      oznews 6 years ago

      Fantastic lens. Please also check out ......

    • puerdycat lm profile image

      puerdycat lm 6 years ago

      Great Lens. Thanks. Have always wanted to see New Zealand for myself, and with geology, the earthquakes got my attention. Lens-rolled you to my christchurch-canterbury-new-zealand.