New Zealand’s Christchurch remembers 185 earthquake victims

by Li Huizi

Photo by Sammy Zhu

 

New Zealand’s Christchurch held a grand memorial ceremony on Saturday in memory of the 185 victims spanning more than 20 nationalities, including 23 Chinese students, in the 2011 earthquake.

A 6.3-magnitude quake struck the city on Feb. 22, 2011. Then-Prime Minister John Key described the disaster as “New Zealand’s darkest day.”

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, in black at the ceremony, acknowledged families who traveled from other parts of the world to attend the memorial.

The mayor also thanked the first responders and bystanders at the time of the quake including police, firefighters, paramedic, nurses, all the NGOs, the student volunteer army, neighbors, families and friends that “generally offered so much.”

“Every gesture, no matter how large or small, has helped us on our journey,” she said.

Hundreds of people with solemn faces threw flowers in the Avon River in Christchurch’s central city where many buildings had crumbled in a flash during the quakes.

At the ceremony, the names of the quake victims were read out by people of different nationalities. A Chinese woman read out the names of the Chinese students killed by the quake.

Some families of the victims embraced each other and wept, remembering their loved ones lost in the earthquake.

International rescue teams arrived within 48 hours after the Feb. 22, 2011 quake. The Chinese government dispatched a 10-person search and rescue team which arrived 36 hours after the quake.

The earthquake and aftershocks caused substantial destruction to Christchurch in 2011. Statistics showed more than 1,200 commercial buildings were destroyed, and around 90 percent of residential houses were damaged to varying degrees.

It is estimated that the total cost for Christchurch’s reconstruction will exceed 40 billion NZ dollars (27 billion U.S. dollars), which equals approximately 10 percent of New Zealand’s GDP.