Tuesday, 1 March 2011

New Zealand's worst disasters

The death toll in last week’s earthquake at Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island stands officially at 154, but the authorities are warning it could rise as high as 240. Today the country held a two-minute silence to commemorate the victims.

The earthquake – with a force of 6.3 - was not as strong as many others that have done less damage, such as last September’s in the same region which was measured at 7.1. On that occasion, the quake happened in the middle of the night when there were fewer people around, and it also struck further from the surface.

Though survivors were being pulled from the rubble left by the Haiti earthquake eleven days after the disaster (see my blog of Jan 24, 2010), all hope seems to have been lost of finding anyone else alive in Christchurch.

New Zealand’s deadliest ever natural disaster remains the Hawke’s Bay earthquake of 1931 which happened on the country’s North Island. Measured at 7.9, it killed 256 people. The country is prone to earthquakes because it lies along the boundary between the Australian and Pacific plates.

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