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Christchurch Earthquake Case Study



New Zealand is located in the Pacific Ocean in the continent of Oceania.  It is South East of Australia and consists of a North and South Island.  Its capital city is Wellington.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


The 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand at 12:51 on 22 February 2011.  The epicentre was 6 miles South East of Christchurch and the focus was very shallow at 3.1 miles.  The earthquake occurred on a conservative plate margin where the Pacific Plate slid past the Australian Plate in the opposite direction.  It was technically an aftershock from a larger earthquake in 2010 but the impacts were more severe.


Primary (caused directly by the earthquake)

Secondary (result from primary effects)

181 people were killed and around 2,000 people were injuredBusiness were put out of action for long periods causing losses of income and jobs
Hundreds of kilometres of water and sewage pipes were damagedSchools had to share classrooms because of the damage to other school buildings
50% + of Central City buildings severely damaged including the city’s cathedral which lost its spireDamage to roads through liquefaction made it difficult for people and emergency services to move around
Liquefaction (where the ground gets saturated and loses strength) caused lots of damage to roads and buildingsPeople were affected mentally by the earthquakes and needed support
Part (size of 20 football fields) of the country’s longest glacier was broken off creating a large icebergChristchurch could no longer host Rugby World Cup matches so lost the benefits, e.g. tourism and income, they would bring
80% of the city was without electricity

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


Development Indicator


GDP per capita (average income)$27,700 per person each year
People living in povertyN/A
Life expectancy81 years old
People per doctor2.4 doctors per 1,000 people
Adult literacy rate99% over 15 years old can read/write
Access to clean water100% of people have access to clean water


Short Term

Long Term

Cared for the most vulnerable people and ensured people were safe from dangerous buildingsPaid $898 million in building claims
Chemical toilets were provided for 30,000 residentsProvided temporary housing and ensured all damaged housing was kept water tight
Areas were zoned (green, orange, white, red) to classify damage/cost of repairsWater and sewerage was restored for all residents by August
International aid was provided in the form of money (around $6-7 million) and aid workersRoads and houses were cleared of silt from liquefaction by August and 80% of roads/50% of footpaths were repaired


Like this:


New Zealand Christchurch Earthquake Location map

Following the 7.0 on the Richter Scale earthquake of 2010, Christchurch, in New Zealand didn’t expect to receive a second significant earthquake within the space of a year.


At a depth of 5km (focus) of the earthquake occurred  2km west of the town of Lytteltonvery close to Christchurch, the second most populated city  in New Zealand with a population of 390,300. See google map here.

Christchurch 2011 earthquake location


Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 12:51:43 PM at epicentre.


Magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale. See the USGS info here

The 2010 Christchurch despite being a higher order of magnitude earthquake at 7.1 on the Richter scale happened in the early hours of the morning at 4.35am which explains partly why there were no casualties as the central business district would have been empty with few people in high rise buildings.


The earthquake was part of the aftershock sequence of the M 7.0 September 3, 2010 Darfield, earthquake in New Zealand.

Thrust Fault

There is a thrust fault which is linked with the plate boundary between the Pacific and Australian plates which meets in the centre of South Island, New Zealand.

New Zealand plate tectonic map


  • 181 dead (as of 3 May 2011)
  • 80% of the city had no electricity
  • Water supplies and sewage disposal badly disrupted
  • Road and bridges damaged
  • Liquefaction of the ground (solid ground is shaken so much that water rises quickly up and turns the ground into a liquid state
  • Many historic buildings damaged or destroyed
  • People trapped in rubble (this story really was interesting as I listened to her on the radio talking from her mobile phone whilst trapped under the rubble)

Sink holes and liquefaction on the roads  in Christchurch, New Zealand. 


Short Term

  • In the seconds, hours and days after the earthquake rescue and response was offered by ordinary people as well as the emergency services on duty
  • An emergency meeting Government Cabinet Meeting was held at 3pm. Read more here
  • The Canterbury Art Gallery which had been designed to be earthquake proof survived and was turned into a Emergency Response centre.  Read more here
  • Satellite Imagery was provided for emergency teams to help with allocation of aid and rescue from the US and France. See more here
  • 300 Australian police were flown in brining the number of the police to 1200
  • The police provided security cordons, organised evacuations, supported search and rescue teams, missing persons and family liaison, and organised media briefings and tours of the affected areas.

Medium Term

  • The Red Cross provided grants to families with children under 5 years of age who were living in significantly damaged homes caused by the September or February earthquakes, with their electricity bills. Read more here
  • The police coordinated forensic analysis and evidence gathering of fatalities  working closely with pathologists, forensic dentists and scientists.

Long Term



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