The Devastation and Rebirth of Christchurch, New Zealand


The ruins of the PG Building, center, which pancaked, killing 18 people.

Meanwhile, it was back to work in the city. Police and the Army had quickly cordoned off the central city while engineers assessed buildings for damage. You could still get in with ID for essential business, but streets were eerily empty of cars.


Soon, the city re-opened. Christchurch continued to breathe a collective sigh of relief. If the city could survive a 7.1 magnitude quake – as powerful as the quake that had leveled Haiti earlier in the year – the thinking went, it was in good shape. Nobody should worry too much. The city council led the calls for “business as usual.”

Aftershocks kept coming. One forced the evacuation of a big suburban mall. On Boxing Day another powerful aftershock rippled through the ground. This turned out to be another new fault, running across the Port Hills.