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Christchurch Earthquake 22 Feb 2011 – Memia Update

Just over 3 days ago Christchurch, the city where Memia is headquartered, took a devastating hit from a force 6.3 Earthquake centred just 10km from the city, and only 5km underground, almost directly under the Port of Lyttelton. This was the latest and most serious in a series of major earthquakes and aftershocks which have affected the city since September 4th last year, and appears to have totally destroyed the CBD and many homes in the suburbs. Numerous buildings have collapsed and the death toll is expected to rise to over 200.

At Memia, we had just spent our first month getting settled into new offices on Lichfield St after being forced to move out of our old space in Cashel Mall after the Boxing Day earthquake. I have since seen video footage of our old offices after this latest quake, and it’s fair to say that it’s quite likely that we wouldn’t be alive today if we were still in them: large parts of the whole frontage of the building simply collapsed into the street below, and there were many casualties on Cashel Mall itself.

Luckily our new building stood up to the latest violent shaking and the whole teams from Memia and Leftclick who we shared offices with made it out onto the street safely. I have since heard that all the staff from Clarus (who are also in the building) are safe and well. However the whole CBD is cordoned off and I have no idea if Leftclick’s building will be usable going forwards – we are currently operating virtually from our internet connections at home.

Thankfully my family are all safe and we have been lucky that our home has not been too devastated: we lost a garage brick wall but the house itself is amazingly intact. In addition, we have not been directly affected by the liquefaction which has covered many parts of the city in dirty brown silt rising out of the ground. Many people, including close friends and colleagues, have not been so fortunate and have lost homes and property.

The last 3 days have been a surreal time for us as we have been without electricity, internet, ┬árunning water or even sewage – as a result we’ve been camping in the garden, cooking on a camping stove and sitting out the many many aftershocks with only a battery operated radio for updates. (Note to Radio NZ: your round-the-clock coverage has been amazing and a real lifeline). While the rest of the world (indeed many western parts of Christchurch) have been able to follow detailed TV coverage, we have been left in a bit of an information vacuum cut off to limited mobile and radio access.

Anyway: last night at 9:30pm the electricity came back on in our suburb at the top of St Martins valley, and we are now beginning the cleanup and recovery from home. My brother (a doctor in the hospital here in Chch) has just come off working 3 long nights in the Emergency Department and appears to have lost his house in Lyttelton: we are very proud of him.

Obviously we are thinking of those who have have family and friends among the missing. Beyond that we need to start thinking about the future and how Christchurch and Canterbury rebuilds: the city will be very different from how it was.

All the best from Ben, Rob and the team at Memia.

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