Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Christchuch Earthquake Aftermath - Important Lessons for Victoria

Damage in Christchurch suburbs 
I recently read a piece in the Burnside Gorge Community Association News by the community resource officer Constable David Bratzer about his attendance at an emergency management course by the City of Victoria.   Because his report is mainly about about observations of Emergency Coordinator Rob Johns during his visit to Christchurch I will have the full report listed below my thoughts.

On February 22nd 2011 there was a 6.3M earthquake which caused severe damage to Christchurch with 185 deaths.  This was the earthquake that caused most damage but only one of three major earthquakes in nine months.  There had been a stronger 7.1M quake on September 4th 2010 which because it was 40 kilometers away from Christchurch was not as damaging.   June 13th 2011 saw another 6.3M earthquake which caused an additional $5 billion in rebuilding costs.  There were significant aftershocks on December 23rd 2011 of 5.8M and 6.0M only 77 minutes apart.

Another damaged suburb
Because of the similarities between Victoria and Christchurch I wrote about their earthquakes on February 22nd and August 25th last year.  The pictures of the damage to the Christchuch looks just like what our city will look like after the earthquake here.

 I have to admit I have not been paying attention to what has been happening in the aftermath but it was the article by David that made me look into it.   I am working my way through the website Rebuild Christchurch and it is a huge amount to get through.

There is a government organization called the Canterbury Eatrhquake Recovery Authority that has been created to help with the recovery of the region. Thought the act creating the authority gives almost all the government powers to the executive and was replaced in April 2011 with a less draconian one though still gives extraordinary government powers.

The cost of rebuilding is estimated to cost between $15 and $20 billion dollars.   The process has not been easy because of competing visions for the future, the city council draft plan is "too restrictive" according to the developers.   It seems clear that Christchurch is going to take decades to recover and is going to be fundamentally changed.

It is also clear that here in Victoria we are not ready at all for an earthquake of the magnitude that hit let Christchuch, let alone the size of an earthquake we are likely to see.

This could be Victoria

The main part of the article written by David Bratzer.

  1. Christchurch is a good comparison city because their population is about the same as Victoria. Christchurch is a region of 380,000. There are approximately 360,000 people in the CRD. Both cities have heritage-style downtowns.
  2. It was a 6.3 magnitude quake, centered ten kilometers outside the city center of Christchurch. In Victoria, there is a one in three chance of a major damaging quake in the next fifty years.
  3. Downtown Christchurch is largely still closed today, one year after the quake. (Picture an area that stretches from James Bay to Bay Street.) Over 6,800 properties are slated for demolition. The cost to rebuild Christchurch is estimated to be NZ$20 - 30 billion and it will take a generation.
  4. The response effort in Christchurch benefited from the lack of other major developments near the city. In Victoria, we will be competing with Vancouver and Seattle for federal and international assistance.
  5. The buildings in downtown Victoria have never experienced a structurally damaging quake. The older brick buildings in downtown Victoria are generally one floor higher than the buildings in downtown Christchurch. Damage to life and property will be higher as a result.
  6. The traditional police dispatch system did not work very well after the Christchurch earthquake. This was for two reasons. First, the police were suddenly overwhelmed with calls for service. Second, when officers were dispatched to a call, they couldn’t get there because they kept coming across higher priority “on view” emergencies.
  7. There were three full Heavy Urban Search and Rescue teams available in New Zealand for Christchurch. There are five heavy teams in Canada, but the closest team is in Vancouver. Victoria is working toward a medium capability team.
  8. The populations of BC and New Zealand are roughly the same. However, a much smaller percentage of BC residents have earthquake insurance.
  9. Many people think that our provincial or federal governments will provide post-disaster funds, but this is a misconception. There may be some disaster relief money, but it might not happen in a timely manner and it probably will not cover all of damages.
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This is a map of the areas of Christchurch that are still closed to public access - the red area as of April 3rd 2012 is still about 200 acres of land.   In Victoria this would be all of downtown from Quadra Street to the water and from Herald Street to Belleville.   The initial area closed was around 400 acres in size.

View CBD Cordon as at 5pm 29 March 2012. in a larger map
 Here is a link to the map of the area closed to the public from February 22 2011 till today.

There is still no regular access by the public into the red zone.  
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