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Canterbury a month on

Philip Duncan – blog:

It’s been exactly one month since Canterbury was rocked by the devastating 7.1 earthquake so I decided to return to the region to check out the damage and to take some photos that perhaps aren’t as dramatic – but are more realistic of how the region is looking.

You’ll find my 20 favourite photos here.

When I left Christchurch the morning of the big quake I remember thinking that the damage was simply in the city centre… and that the suburbs were fairly untouched. To be fair, I was still in shock from being in it and my mind was replaying the scary moment that it struck, over and over again.

As I flew back into the city last Friday I noticed as we were coming in to land a blue tarpaulin on a roof, covering its broken chimney. Little did I realise that first sign of damage would actually repeat itself dozens of times again.

I was picked up by my friend Sarah who has, in the past couple of weeks, moved from Auckland to live in Christchurch. As we drove to her house I was blown away by the number of homes with damaged chimneys. Roof after roof was covered in tarps or new squares of corrugated iron. Very little other damage though. Mostly just chimneys.

But the city itself looked absolutely stunning. In fact, if you were passing through the city and weren’t aware of the quake it’s possible that you could drive through it without noticing the damage.

Mind you, downtown is still a bit of a mess in some areas. Many buildings have been badly damaged and some are dramatically damaged – like the Baptist Church right near the CBD. This magnificent building looks like it could come down just by a bird landing on it.

If you’re like me and not from Christchurch, it’s possible that you’ll drive past empty sites and not even realise a building was once there, now destroyed and completely removed.

The weird thing is seeing such huge damage, but then turning 180 degrees and seeing a street with no damage and lined with trees full of spring blossom.

For the most part the city is bouncing back remarkably.

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There are, of course, those areas that truly are damaged – suburbs and some small towns that are going to be without sewerage for maybe a year. Hard to believe that is even possible in a country like New Zealand – but it does show the gravity of the event.

The most interesting part of my weekend in Canterbury was finally getting a chance to drive out to the fault line to see it for myself. My first impression of the fault line was one of awe. While it doesn’t look dramatic at first, once it sinks in that the road has moved by several metres sideways and lifted up by at least one metre you realise just how huge the force really was underground. And it wasn’t just that piece of road… the ground had moved that much for at least 20kms.

Canterbury has been very lucky since the quake – it has almost completely missed out on severe weather and even rainy, cold days. The dry sunny, weather means damage hasn’t been further exacerbated. Flowers lined the streets, trees were in blossom, lawns were mown, streets were open, cafes were full. The city will bounce back and, like Napier, be better for it in the long run.

My thanks also to Andy from who helped me with the photos on Saturday.

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