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Christchurch: $2 billion damage – and counting

The scene above was captured by Christchurch software developer Layton Duncan (aka @polarbearfarm). If you've got a photo, email down for more pictures.

Earthquake Commission (EQC) chief executive Ian Simpson estimates it will cost more than $2 billion to repair damage caused by yesterday's 7.1 magnitude quake, which struck 40km west of Christchurch.

And counting: Geonet recorded 11 aftershocks between midnight and 6am Sunday morning. The strongest - at 5.1 magnitude - hit at 5.20am this morning.

Aftershocks of up to magnitude 6 are expected over the next week.

Each aftershock further damages buildings already weakened by the quake, plus infrastructure like water and sewerage systems.

Metservice expected heavy rain and gales today, which Civil Defence said could could place significant stress on already damaged buildings and damage temporary repairs to buildings.

Restoration fund
Mayor Bob Parker established a Christchurch Restoration Fund late yesterday.

TelstraClear was the first to kick in, with a $100,000 donation.

A number of charities have also begun taking donation. BNZ offered $250,000 to the Red Cross and $250,00 to $250,000 to the Salvation army as part of a $1 million programme that will also include Foodstuff vouchers, and assistance to staff and customers.

The big money
EQC has $250 million in New Zealand-registered bank deposits, available more-or-less immediately to meet cash claims, and $5.8 billion (according to this March 2010 update) in its Natural Disaster Fund.

Under the funds procedures, EQC must ask Finance Minister Bill English for permission before liquidating any of the fund's assets in the event of a large-scale disaster.

The minister and the Treasury, are to offer advice on which assets to liquidate first under guidelines set up in 2001.

The EQC's fund is 33% invested in offshore stocks and bonds (the balance is in
New Zealand government bonds). "It is prudent for EQC to hold assets outside the region that will be directly affected by a major natural disaster," the organisation says on the fund's website.

The funds are primarily invested in shares from countries that are in the Morgan Stanley Capital (MSCI) World Index and the amount invested will be approximately proportional to the size and value of each country’s stock market.

Yesterday, Prime Minister John Key said the fund should cover most claims.

Lodging an EQC claim
Homeowners with insured properties that have been damaged by the earthquake can lodge a claim with the Earthquake Commission via the freephone number 0800 DAMAGE (0800 326 243).

People have up to three months to make a claim; up to 100,000 are expected.

Mr Simpson said he expects thousands of claims over the next few days and advises people who strike a busy signal to keep trying the lines.

Traffic cams back on - see for yourself
The MetService switched its Christchurch traffic camera network back on early Sunday morning (stils can be viewed through the agency's website).

The images show that while the CBD was left looking like a war zone, many parts of the city are comparatively unscathed, with many cars on the road.

The toll
According to a Civil Defence update posted at 4.25am Sunday morning, one person is in the intensive care Unit of Christchurch Hospital with serious injuries after being struck by a falling chimney; a small number have been treated for fractures and lacerations.

It is estimated that about 100 injured patients seen on Saturday relate to the earthquake.

Damage to buildings and smaller bridges was widespread, but in many cases minor, the agency said.

Many still without power, water
As darkness fell on Saturday, around 20% of Christchurch residents were without power, and around one third without water, according to Civil Defence estimates.

More than 100 buildings were damaged, and multiple roads, rail lines and bridges fractured, and water and and sewerage pipes ruptured. NBR Christchurch reporter Chris Hutching said anecdotal evidence suggested at least every second house suffered some form of structural damage in his suburb.

The latest Christchurch City Council update reads:

  • 15 to 30% of city still without drinking water
  • Main areas of difficulties are Eastern suburbs and Halswell
  • Two pumping stations in Avonside Drive have been severely damaged
  • 6 other pump station have been damaged
  • 500+ buildings have been damaged with over 90 in inner city. However this includes fallen chimneys.
  • Council is now shutting down broken water mains so pressure in the rest of the system can increase
  • The water supply is back on in Diamond Harbour
  • There may be whole streets without water for several days.

(The main council office also drolly notes on its site that "We've moved!")

Christchurch under curfew
Last night, police enforced a curfew around Christchurch from 7pm Saturday night until 7am Sunday morning.

The CBD has been cleared under the state of civil emergency declared on Saturday, with a cordon established to keep people out of the central business district, where falling debris is seen as a danger, and isolated looting took place earlier today.

The block between Kilmore Street, Madras Street, Montreal Street and St Asaph Street is currently cordoned, and the shopping centre and township area of Kaiapoi.

Anyone breaching the curfew faced arrest.

Around 80 police officers had been flown in from around the country to help maintain law and order.

Mr Parker has asked the government for army assistance as well.

PM visits
Prime Minister John Key, Deputy Prime Minister Gerry Brownlee and Civil Defence Minister John Carter flew into the city several hours after the quake.

Mr Key was being interviewed by a OneNews crew in the CBD when a fire broke out behind him in a building housing a massage parlour and party drug outlet.

A map displaying the pattern of aftershocks on Saturday morning. Courtesy GeoNet.

A state of civil emergency was declared around 10.15am yesterday, giving police the power to remove anyone still in the CBD.

Infographic courtesy Civil Defence. For EQC situation updates, and damage claim information, click here.

Authorities closed off the CBD and asked building owners to stay at home rather than attempt to check their premises.

Older brick buildings were the worst hit.

Some sewerage pipes had burst, raising fears of contaminated water.

Ruptured water mains and broken pipes caused surface flooding in several streets.

Faultlines were visible in multiple areas of the city, making the exact level of damage difficult to access, but raising fears that civil infrastructure repairs could take weeks.

Canterbury University geologist Mark Quigley said the Avon river had briefly burst its banks before settling back to its normal level. 

Infographic courtesy Science Media Centre. Click for larger image.

After-shocks expected
GNS Science duty seismologist John Ristau told the Science Media Centre that aftershocks were likely to continue for days, even weeks, though the largest aftershocks generally occurred within the first 48 hours of a large earthquake.

"A rule of thumb for a large earthquake at a shallow depth such as this is that the largest aftershock will be about one unit of magnitude lower than the main shock," he said.

Christchurch airport was closed for the morning for inspection but was reopened early Saturday afternoon. In some areas, roads have been cracked. Rail lines have also been ruptured in places.

The city's infamous boy racer community takes the dawn quake in its stride. Photo via the website of geologist Dr Mark Quigley.

Multiple shopfront windows have been shattered, and there were reports of looting in the immediate aftermath of the quake. Two men had been arrested, police said, in what appeared to be isolated incidents.

The quake was also felt in Timaru, elsewhere in the South Island and as far north as Hamilton. Darfield, the town nearest the epicentre, was the hardest hit.

Christchurch Hospital remained fully operational through the day, running on backup power.

Photo by Dr Mark Quigley.

Telecom, Vodafone, 2degrees service updates
Telecom Gen-i chief executive Chris Quin said 111 services were operational. Christchurch services were running on backup power, and all calls being shifted to Hamilton, Wellington and Auckland so people can go to families."

"Services in our exchange building and data centre are okay. The issue is power to homes and buildings," Mr Quin said. Broadband was affected and some cellsites were operating on batteries. Critical services were being prioritised.

Photo by Dr Mark Quigley.

But although the landline network was stable, many people were caught on the hop by power cuts as cordless phones (unlike older corded models) require AC power.

Vodafone head of corporate communications Paul Brislen told NBR that there appeared to be no damage to the carrier's Christchurch network.

However, the lack of power meant that Vodafone's cellsites, like Telecom's, were running on battery power during the morning.

People are asked to keep mobile calls as brief as possible, or txt.

Photo by @SkinBintin (reportedly of Hyundai's car storage building).

2 Degrees chief executive Eric Hertz said at 10.45am: “The majority of our network is unaffected, with only four sites not operating at the moment. Most sites are now running off emergency power and key sites have additional emergency backup generators supplied by petrol.

“Our customers can have the confidence to make calls and send texts as they would normally.”

“However, I would suggest that customers who have no local power at home take all practical steps to preserve their mobile phones’ handset battery life as there is no indication as to when local power will be restored to enable them to recharge their handset."

Mr Hertz was due to fly to Christchurch later today.

Telecom's network division, Chorus, posted the following update at 11.35am: "While the majority of the network has backup power, a small number of roadside cabinets have lost power affecting phone services to customers in the immediate vicinity."

Additional teams and equipment were being brought in from around the country.

ATMs coming back online
Financial services were also disrupted by the quake. As of 1pm, BNZ reported that 17 of its ATMs were closed, and 36 open (a list of locations is on the bank's site).

Late afternoon, residents had somewhere to spend their money and restock, too, with a supermarket in Hornby opening its doors.

Stuff: Aerial footage of the damage and flooding around Christchurch and Canterbury.

Photo by Dr Mark Quigley.

Photo by @SkinBintin.

Photo by @SkinBintin

Photo by @swiftynz.

Photo by @polarbearfarm.

Photo by @polarbearfarm.


Photo by @polarbearfarm.

Photo by @ShenMansell.

Photo by @visionarymedia.

Photo by Dr Mark Quigley.

Photo by Dr Mark Quigley.

Photo by Dr Mark Quigley.

Photo by Dr Mark Quigley.

Photo by @mrsgooding.

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