Adventists in Christchurch, New Zealand,
Safe After Massive 7.1 Earthquake
U.S. $1.4 billion in damage to area, but no injuries or deaths reported
BY PABLO LILLO, Editor, South Pacific Division Record, reporting from Christchurch
A state of emergency remains in Christchurch September 7, as aftershocks as large as magnitude 5.4 continued to rumble through the region.
More than 100,000 homes were damaged after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit at 4:35 a.m. on Sabbath (Saturday) morning with power, water and sewerage services all disrupted. Five out of every eight homes needs to be assessed by civil engineers.
HIGH STREET LAID LOW: Shopping area in Christchurch, New Zealand, was turned into rubble by an early-Sabbath morning magnitude 7.1 earthquake, Sept. 4, 2010. No one was reported injured or killed, but property damage is approaching U.S. $1.5 billion. [Photo: Clinton Rappell/ADRA NZ]
Most Seventh-day Adventist Churches in and around Christchurch did not hold worship services that Sabbath, although reports have been received of at least one group meeting in their sanctuary. No injuries or deaths were reported among the general population or among Adventists in the area, although estimates of property damage are approaching U.S. $1.5 billion.
A significant number of people remain in welfare centers, with the number rising to about 300 on Sept. 6, after two large aftershocks.
Barricades remain in place around the restricted access zones in the central city and in Kaiapoi. On the ground in Christchurch’s Cranmer Square—in the heart of the inner city but not completely cordoned off—is as close as ADRA staff can get on foot to some of the most severe damage the earthquake has left in its wake.
Pockets of people filter through roadblocks and wind around piles of debris to survey the skeletal remains of some of the area’s oldest heritage buildings and talk to one another.
The Ministry of Education has ordered all schools to stay closed until September 13. Danny Carrasco, principal of Christchurch Adventist School, has been getting the school ready after the mess left from the earthquake. The school building didn’t suffer any structural damage.
Since the weekend, Robert Patton and Pastor Craig Gillis, South New Zealand Conference president, have been engaging with Emergency Managers to identify and address the most pressing community needs. ADRA New Zealand, in partnership with the South New Zealand Conference—are encouraging church members and volunteers to community-focused action.
“I believe the toughest days are to come,” said Gillis. “The redevelopment of infrastructure and peoples homes and lives will be the most critical. We’re asking church members to look to their own neighbourhoods and communities to help those in need.”
Church leaders were urged to not only address the immediate impact of the quake, but also to reiterate existing evacuation plans and work on strengthening partnerships and maintain communication to enhance preparedness for the future. An estimated 15,000 earthquakes strike New Zealand, located in the “Ring of Fire” Pacific earthquake zone, annually, media reports said.
HOW NEW IS MY VALLEY: Seventh-day Adventist pastor Ben Rea, who leads two congregations in the Christchurch, New Zealand, area, stands in a rift opened up by the Sept. 4 earthquake. [Photo: Jessica Rea]
“I would like to thank the ministers, church leaders, Christchurch Adventist School principal, and representatives of Footsteps who made their way to the Conference office for the debriefing we had with Clinton Rappell, executive director of ADRA NZ,” Gillis said.
Presence at the daily group controllers coordination meeting at Environment Canterbury has helped ADRA NZ to identify welfare as the top priority. From this, two main areas in which ADRA NZ can be of assistance have been identified.
Firstly, a shortage of mid and long-term accommodation for displaced families who cannot return to their homes. The Pascoe Park campground, owned by the South New Zealand Conference, can offer rooms and powered recreational vehicle (caravan) sites to homeless residents. Secondly, although the short-term needs appear to be well covered, ADRA’s standing agreement with the Sanitarium Health Food Company can provide longer-term welfare solutions; especially once the initial response has quieted down.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church in South New Zealand is on stand-by to help as requested with food and emergency accomodation,” said Gillis.
ADRA NZ has committed $10,000 towards the recovery effort and are taking donations from around the world to add to this amount. Church members are encouraged to contribute to the ADRA NZ Canterbury earthquake appeal via their website, www.adra.co.nz
-- with additional reporting by Clinton Rappell, and Adventist Review staff.