The Devastation and Rebirth of Christchurch, New Zealand

Art Gallery: The new steel and glass building coped well with the earthquake and served as an initial disaster-management HQ, but is yet to re-open to the public.

EDITORS NOTE: For many years New Zealand native, David Killick, has produced stories on assignment for The Chief Engineer. Filing exclusive reports from newsmakers in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, David has provided readers of the Chief Engineer with unique feature stories on a variety of engineering related topices. Many readers may recall that David worked on assignment for the magazine, following several of the exploits of now missing adventurer Steve Fosset, including his last Austrailian attempt to set a new glider altitude record in the high desert downunder. Thanks to David, the Chief Engineer became the first American magazine to file a report on that attempt, scooping other media sources in the nation. 

In 2010, shortly after a series of earthquakes devestated the Christchurch area, we were releived to hear from David and learn that he and his family had survived. Since then, we have periodically exchanged emails and David would keep me up to date on a story that too quickly faded from American news media. For over a year, citizens of Christchurch and its surrounding areas were forbidden to enter most parts of the city. Over the past nineteen months, David and his family have worked alongside their fellow Kiwis’ to rebuild their lives, city and nation, we asked that when he felt ready, David file a report for our readers that would speak to the devastation encountered and the lessons to be learned from the crisis experienced by the people of Christchurch.

On behalf of the entire staff here at the Chief Engineer, I am emensly pleased to present once again an exclusive feature story from Mr. David Killick – our man in Christchurch.

More than a year since a series of devastating earthquakes struck Christchurch, -New Zealand’s second largest city – much of the area remains a disaster zone. Significant lessons are emerging on how buildings behave in earthquakes, how they should be constructed in the future, and how cities could cope better with catastrophe. David Killick reports for The Chief Engineer.

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The first quake struck without warning in the pre-dawn darkness, on September 4, 2010. The sudden, violent shaking jolted me out of bed. “Quick, earthquake!” I yelled to my wife. Braced against the doorframe on the second floor of our timer-framed house, I watched the stairwell shake. Would the house come down? “It’s a big one.” Then a flash. “Power’s gone.”