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The Christchurch Earthquake: 22nd February 2011

Updated Wednesday, 23rd February 2011

A second earthquake in six months strikes New Zealand - and this time Christchurch feels the full force. The OU's David Rothery suddenly faced a different day to the one he had planned...

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I rose early because I was taking a morning’s leave to do a job on my horse. I turned the television on while I was having a cuppa to find out whether Colonel Gaddafi had gone yet, and saw the scenes of devastation in Christchurch.

This caused a rapid re-think of my day. I quickly sought out some technical information about the quake and composed a few quotable sentences for the Science Media Centre in London, which does such an admirable job putting journalists and scientists together.

Dave Rothery on horseback
Original plan: David Rothery on horseback

Half way round my route I had a call on my mobile from Lawrence McGinty, ITN’s science editor, asking for an interview. I explained my situation, and he suggested sending a camera to record comments from me at my home about lunchtime, as the footage of me would not needed until the 6:30 and 10:00 pm news programmes.

This was duly accomplished.

David interviewed on ITV News Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: ITV News
David interviewed on ITV News Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: ITV News
Revised plan: David appears on ITV News

It’s all part of my job profile as Chairman of the Open University’s introductory module Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis and author of a popular book of the same name.

At magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale, the Christchurch earthquake was considerably less powerful than the magnitude 7.0 quake that struck nearby on 4 September 2010, but three factors conspired to make its effects worse.

The initial rupture was at a shallow depth; it happened much closer to the city; and it happened during the daytime when people were on the streets or in office blocks.

New Zealand has (and enforces) stringent codes on building standards with resistance to earthquakes in mind. Although tragically some buildings collapsed, the death-toll would have been far higher had a similar quake struck a city of comparable size in almost any other country in the world.

TJs Kazbah North New Brighton, Christchurch Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: martinluff under CC-BY-SA licence
TJs Kazbah North New Brighton, Christchurch near collapse following 6.3 quake on Feb 22

 

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