Christchurch closed as aftershocks keep hitting
By Philippa McDonald
Updated 3 hours 37 minutes ago
Christchurch residents have been told to prepare for a hard grind ahead after Saturday's 7.1-magnitude earthquake, as strong aftershocks continue to shake New Zealand's second biggest city.
The city is also bracing itself for high winds which could cause more damage to homes and buildings.
The winds were starting to hammer parts of the region late on Sunday night and police are urging people to stay off the streets as the 130 kilometre an hour wind gusts could bring down already unstable bricks and masony.
The aftershocks have been as strong as magnitude 5.0 and the city centre will remain closed on Monday, although business owners will be allowed in to assess the damage to property.
About 500 buildings have been destroyed - more than 90 in the CBD - and authorities have ordered the city's schools to stay closed until at least Wednesday as engineers carry out structural checks.
Prime minister John Key says each building needs to be checked, especially schools.
"We simply just have to check every school to make sure that the buildings are sturdy and stable," he said.
"We can't send school children back to school until they've been buttoned down and signed off."
Mr Key says he does not know how long that will take, but rebuilding Christchurch could take a year because many buildings will have to be knocked down.
Despite the widespread damage no-one was killed by the earthquake but two people were seriously injured and another died of a heart attack during the disaster.
New Zealand's Chamber of Commerce says the damage to business caused by the powerful quake is substantial.
Cordons are in place in some streets due to the sustained damage to buildings and the city is still under a state of emergency.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the city is coming to terms with the scale of the disaster.
"We are certainly moving into the phase where the adrenaline has dropped and the reality of the situation that's in front of us is hitting people," he said.
"People are very tired and volunteers are finding their spirits are starting to be sapped by the scale of this event.
"We're going to have to be patient; we can do this together, but it's a hard, hard grind ahead of us now."
While power has been restored to most of the city attention is now turning to the cleanliness of the water supply.
Tankers which usually carry milk are now carting water to the areas hard hit by the earthquake.
Health authorities are warning all residents to boil their water before drinking, but that is not an option for hundreds of people whose streets have been flooded with sewerage and water when pipes burst with the force of the quake.
Mr Key says authorities are working to make sure people have all the support they need.
"We understand up to 100,000 homeowners will be looking to make claims but it could be more and while we only saw about 250 people in welfare centres last night an awful lot of people went out and stayed with family and friends," he said.
"We just need to make sure that all those support services are there and obviously we're working as fast as we can to get water back on. But waste water's also presenting some issues for us."
Earlier, residents took shelter as strong winds buffeted the city and there were fears that more buildings could collapse.
Heavy movers attempted to clear the road of mud and silt after the quake caused sewerage and water pipes to burst and left the roads buckled and separated from the gutter.
But homes bore the biggest brunt with about 350 houses severely damaged, forcing residents to move out.
Residents say while emergency services are working to restore clean water supplies in their streets it could take days, leaving some people to spend a second night in a relief centre.
"I don't want to stay in the house alone," said one person.
"I'm still pretty nervous and really shaken and I've slept two hours since it hit yesterday.
"I feel a lot safer because we're with people who, if it happened again, know what to do."
Christchurch resident Oriana Toasland says the earthquake and aftershocks were frightening but people are taught from an early age to be prepared for the possibility of such events.
"I think New Zealand has an amazing ability to teach the children about disaster survival and it's not just quakes; we're talking about tsunamis, fires and everything," she said.
"Every child in New Zealand learns from the time that they start kindergarten about earthquakes; it's installed in all children.
"Every New Zealander I should think would know what to do in an earthquake."