Monday, July 18, 2011

7,500 earthquakes hit Christchurch, a now-shattered New Zealand city

It's been 10 months since the first big earthquake struck New Zealand's second-largest city. It's been nearly five months since a far more devastating one killed 181 people and crippled the downtown. But it's been just a few hours since yet another aftershock startled Christchurch residents during the night.

"I stop breathing," said Sheridan Cattermole, a bartender and a mom. "I get pins and needles all over. I either freeze or run. I just want things to be back to what they were like this time last year. I had my vege garden, and my sunflowers."

Seismologists have recorded 7,500 earthquakes in Christchurch since September — an average of more than 20 a day. The rumblings are rattling the psyche of the still-battered city. They have left the land under thousands of homes unsafe to build on. Some people have left town entirely. Yet many have proven resilient, and some now see a reconstruction boom on the horizon.

Christchurch is the disaster that the world forgot. When the deadly quake toppled the iconic Cathedral spire and flattened buildings in this city of 390,000, people around the globe paid attention. But two weeks later, the massive earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 20,000 in Japan took center stage. (more)