A day of reflection in Christchurch

A day of reflection in Christchurch

As the fifth anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake is marked around the country, some of those who lived through the magnitude 6.3 quake have shared their memories of the day.

GNS Scientist and director of GeoNet Dr Ken Gledhill was involved with the earthquake from day one.

"Our world changed on 22 February, 2011," he says. "As a scientist and the Director of GeoNet, I'm an expert at numbers, not with words. Explaining the impact of this earthquake with words is an almost impossible task.

"When I reflect on the last five years, I see the tremendous growth that has occurred for our GeoNet project. Before the earthquakes, we were a little, rarely discussed seismic and volcanic monitoring network, known mainly by scientists, policy makers, hazard analysts and science fans. That all changed after 4 September 2010 and intensified on 22 February 2011 to a level we were not expecting.

"Since then, the positives have been many.  What we know about earthquakes since 22 February has taken us in new and unexpected directions that we could not have imagined before the earthquake. We now have GeoNet Rapid, which delivers almost immediate information on earthquakes to our users. We now have 'the GeoNet APP', along with our website and social media platforms. We sent out 2,150,890 push notifications (custom text alerts) on the recent Valentine's Day earthquake on 14 February 2016.  However, it must be cold comfort for the people of Canterbury that the leaps and bounds in the science come from that earthquake that took so much.

"I am acutely aware that the costs of this growth have been exceedingly high. The loss of life, the damage to the city, the suffering of people, is almost unimaginable even five years later. So perhaps the greatest learning for me was how people turned to GeoNet for support. I learned that science can sometimes comfort as well as inform.

"With every large earthquake that has come since the 22 February 2011, the first consideration we have now is about the people affected and how we can communicate with them. We have become people-centred, always learning more about how to provide the latest and most useful information to all our audiences. In this way, we honour the people of Christchurch, who are still teaching us lessons about resilience and enduring strength."

A St John man and patient share a moment together (Chris Howe)

Maan Alkaisi's wife died in the CTV building collapse, one of 115 people who lost their lives there.

The building's collapse is still under investigation, with a further update expected in the first quarter of this year.

Police announced last year that one phase of the investigation is to physically rebuild and test the critical elements of the structure, which has taken longer than expected.

"I never expected that after five years we'd still be waiting for some outcome, but I must say at the same time that we're kind of passed the stage of 'we want fast action'," Mr Alkaisi says.

"Everything for us is very clear, we know how this building collapsed, we know why the building collapsed, we know who is responsible and the only thing that we're waiting for is really somebody [to be] held to account," he says.

Mr Alkaisi says the best way to honour those who lost their lives on the day is to ensure something like this never happens again.

A baby keeping warm in a St John woman's arms (Mark Going)

Christchurch's Mayor Lianne Dalziel is today reflecting on the lack of progress in the city's eastern suburbs, which were shaken to the core in the earthquake.

Buckled roads and stalled development continue to hang over those communities - some of which were back shovelling silt following the recent Valentine's Day quake.

Ms Dalziel says she remembers the day with sadness, but also recalls the way people helped their neighbours.

"It's going to be a difficult day for a lot of people because five years is a significant anniversary and it's also going to be, I hope, an opportunity for people  to see there has been progress and we are looking forward optimistically to a future.

"Today would be a really good day for people in responsible positions, in the insurance companies, and EQC, to actually reflect on what it would mean to enable people to have that line in the sand they're looking for."

University student Jeremy Gundry was beginning his first year of study in Christchurch when the earthquake hit. He remembers sitting on the grass with friends at University Hall in Ilam.

At the time he didn't really understand the magnitude of the earthquake and the destruction it had caused on the other side of the city. It meant his first year of university was a completely different experience, with lectures being held in makeshift classrooms and no city hub.

Now progress is being made, he says, slowly but surely.