We arrived in Christchurch this afternoon, just over a year since the earthquake hit the city. We knew of course about the earthquake, that 185 people had been killed and the city’s cathedral damaged. Indeed it has just been announced that it is to be demolished completely. But we were not prepared for the scale and sadness of destruction. To know something is one thing; to see it directly is quite another; and, we must remember, to live through it an entirely different thing again.
The centre of the city is now completely closed, for reasons which are obvious from the pictures I have taken. I did not take that many partly because you cannot get beyond a perimeter cordon, and partly because it felt intrusive and voyeuristic to go seeking out damage – seeking a good picture out of other people’s misery.
But the people of Christchurch remain friendly, cheerful and resilient. Business is relocating to the suburbs and everyone is focused on the future. It will be a long haul, but I’m sure they will make it.
One of the extraordinary aspects of the city is that damaged buildings are not just limited to the central zone and sit beside other buildings or parks which remain well cared for and immaculate.
And one of the saddest things is that it is not just big public or commercial buildings which have been damaged. There are many modest bungalows, damaged and empty too.