23rd February 2011 by Andrew Matheson, | 7 Comments
Once again the support of others has been very moving. As most of the world knows, the New Zealand city of Christchurch has been hit by a severe earthquake — for the second time in only a few months.
Soon after the city got back on its feet from the trauma of last September, an even nastier quake struck. It was closer to the city, much shallower, and happened during a busy lunch hour on a weekday. The previous quake resulted in no fatalities partly because it hit in the early hours of the morning when most people were in relative safety at home.
As the scale and horror of the damage unfolded during our day here in Manila, expressions of concern started coming into the embassy. Just as we experienced after the Pike River mining tragedy, messages of support are very much appreciated at times like this. New Zealand is such a close-knit community that Kiwis everywhere are grieving over this, and everyone will know someone in Christchurch.
Many of my foreign affairs colleagues were in the city for the New Zealand/US partnership forum, a meeting of top officials, business leaders, and thinkers. Fortunately they all escaped unscathed. One American taking part wrote of his “tragic and horrifying” experience. But Ernie Bower also pointed out that the experience had “created a new fraternity of Kiwi and American leaders who are and will ever remain committed to one another, to the relationship, and to helping the city of Christchurch and its incredible people heal, recover, and get on with living.”
There have been offers of practical assistance from many countries, as New Zealand’s friends around the world rallied in support. Specialist urban search and rescue teams from several countries are already working beside their Kiwi colleagues.
Sadly, international links have a downside during tragedies such as this. Many tourists were in town at this time of year, and an English-language school was reported to be in one of the worst-affected buildings. Anxious Filipinos have been contacting us about relatives who were in Christchurch at the time of the quake, and we’re helping them to get in touch with their loved ones. Several Filipinos are missing, and our hearts go out to their families and friends.
The embassy’s website has links to information sources about the impact of the quake. The embassy has opened a condolence book in memory of those who lost their lives or who suffered in this tragegy. It will be available at the embassy during working hours of 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.