February 22, 2013 marks the second anniversary of the 2011 6.3 magnitude earthquake here in Christchurch. Many lives were lost and much of the city was destroyed. At the time I was working on Tuam and Manchester Ave in the central business district. I wanted to start by sharing some of the photographs that I took right after the earthquake.
Still to this day the physical scars are visible as you drive through town. A vacant lot where a shop once stood. Steel support beams weather in the elements as the skeletal remains of a once great building. Piles of rubble as another building that was damaged in the earthquake is torn down.
Yet while the physical scars a clearly visible, the emotional ones are less so. The official death toll stands at 185 people lost that day. For those of us that remained in the city, we have been faced with difficult conditions. We have had a staggering 13,000 aftershocks, each one that constantly remind us of that day along with a bit of concern, “is this another big one?”
The economic state of the region has severely been impacted. Many businesses were destroyed or forced to move because of damaged buildings. Damaged roads and bad locations have caused many more to close down. The community lost not only the jobs, but the business service as well. Many of us have been without work or underemployed since then.
Housing has been another source of anguish. Costs have been pushed to an all time high rivaling that of luxury towns like Queenstown. Countless homes were destroyed or made uninhabitable by damage. Landlords have been taking advantage of by increasing rent. Or worse, to make a quick buck they sell the homes and kick the renters out. I myself have been forced to move twice since the September earthquake. Lines of 30 to 60 applicants appear at every rental property. All hoping that they will be the ones to be selected. Some so desperate they are offering to pay up to an extra $100 per week above the asking price. The process takes months of countless applications just to find a home.
Post earthquake Christchurch shows the strain of physical and emotional scars. Yet, we carry on as we must. The rebuilding effort is happening, but at a very slow pace. As a city we still have many needs. Housing, employment and infrastructure are all essential. However, we must not forget to rebuild our lives as well. Our scars serve as a reminder of what we have overcome and accomplished in difficult times.