Wednesday 23 February 2011

Catastrophe in Christchurch

I was horrified to see the pictures of the effects of the devastating earthquake which took place in the New Zealand city of Christchurch earlier this week. And all this after having suffered a major earthquake only 5 months ago. In September last year, there was damage caused but no casualties. Unfortunately, this time Christchurch, has not been so lucky.

Casualties have mounted with almost 100 people reported dead and a few hundred still missing. The scenes of building collapses across the city of Christchurch are quite shocking to view, and the central feature of the cathedral of Christchurch remains barely a shadow of its former glory.

What is more shocking about these scenes, is the fact that New Zealand is a country which has paid a great deal of attention over the years to ensuring that buildings are built to special earthquake standards. The general public are trained to respond to earthquakes, and have frequent earthquake drills to prepare for moments like these. Despite this fact, the damage is widespread and there are likely to be many more deaths to add to the already mounting list. It could be said that the devastation would be much wider if these precautions had not been taken. Witness the impact on a country like Haiti, which had no earthquake preparations in place whatsoever. It lost hundreds of thousands of its citizens, and remains on its knees more than a year after the earthquake.

For me, this earthquake feels personal. I fondly remember the time that I spent in New Zealand and, particularly, my visit to Christchurch. I remember being entertained by the famous Wizard of Christchurch in the shadow of the cathedral that has now lost its steeple and its proud position of domination in the centre of the city. This was all part of a wonderful adventure that I had in New Zealand as an exchange student. Not only did I enjoy the beauty of the country, the people were so kind and welcoming and made me feel like I really belonged.

For now, the scene in Christchurch is covered by a black cloud. It is difficult to see past the death and damage which have been thrust upon this city over the past few days. I have no doubt, however, that the people of Christchurch will show a fighting spirit to overcome this tragedy, and will rebuild their city to be at least as good as it previously was. The people of New Zealand will ensure that this is achieved as soon as possible.

For now, my thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones, who have been injured and who are concerned about missing friends and relatives. May they be granted the strength and the resilience to overcome this terrible tragedy. "God defend New Zealand".

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