Bad weather hits quake-ravaged Christchurch

By David Barber

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Gale force winds and heavy rain hampered clean-up operations Monday in Christchurch, New Zealand, as the city continued to be rocked by aftershocks in the wake of the weekend’s devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake.

Civil defense officials said winds felled power poles in outlying areas overnight, and 150 people were evacuated from a riverside holiday park threatened by floods after 200 millimeters (7.87 inches) of rain fell on the Southern Alps, raising river levels.

Shops and offices in the city center remained closed, and the 50,000 commuters who usually work there stayed home after engineers warned of the continuing danger of falling debris and glass from damaged buildings.

Officials said a 12-hour night-time curfew would continue in the central business district, where at least 90 buildings were damaged, and soldiers began to replace exhausted police on cordon duty.

All schools in the region were closed, no buses were running, and the city’s state of emergency was extended until at least noon Wednesday.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker repeated appeals to boil all drinking water after getting reports of outbreaks of gastroenteritis around the city and suburbs, where he said 360 fractures of water and sewage pipes had been identified.
An estimated 60,000 homes were reported to remain without water and 10,000 had no power.

At least 100,000 homes and more than 500 commercial buildings were damaged in the most devastating earthquake to hit a New Zealand city in nearly 90 years.

Residents’ nerves were reported to be frayed as aftershocks continued to hit the city, nine significant ones in the first eight hours of Monday, the largest registering 4.8 on the Richter scale.

At its weekly meeting in Wellington, the cabinet was scheduled to discuss a strategy for rebuilding the shattered city’s infrastructure.

Prime Minister John Key said it would take at least a year to rebuild the center of the South Island’s largest city, which is the gateway to the country for hundreds of thousands of international tourists annually.

The only death in Saturday’s pre-dawn quake remained a heart attack victim, though two people seriously injured by falling debris were still in hospital.