Christchurch earthquake remembered one year on

By AAP with AG staff 22 February 2012
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Christchurch mourns those lost one year ago today in the devastating earthquake.

ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF the earthquake that devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, thousands of people have gathered in the city’s Hagley Park to mark the the sombre day.

Flags in the city are flying at half-mast in commemoration of the 185 people who lost their lives following the magnitude 6.3 quake, which struck at 12.51pm last February 22.

The civic memorial service opened with a Maori blessing, and the national anthem performed by the army band. Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, Prime Minister John Key, MPs and ambassadors are among the dignitaries attending the service.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told those gathered at the event that the city had been irrevocably changed.

It is “a hard, hard day for many people”.

“We’ve been through the most extraordinary period of time,” the mayor told media on Wednesday. “We can never be the same again.”.
“The mood of the city at the moment is very emotional … It’s a very heavy day – heavy with emotion and the sense of loss, but I think it’s also very important to note that for many people, today is a day that represents some closure.”

However, the city now has new links with all those countries and people who came to Christchurch’s aid in the wake of the disaster.

“We will never forget the things that you have done for us,” the mayor said.

Remembering the heroes of the Christchurch earthquake

He said Cantabrians had learned to stand together to survive, and were remarkable people and heroes.

“Let us work together to rebuild a city fit for heroes,” he said.

“We’ve learned that when we work together; when we listen to each other, extraordinary things can happen. “The way that our friends and our neighbours reached out to us, the way that our businesses worked together, the way that one side of the city reached out to another side of the city.

“We are seeing a resurgence of strength and spirit, we are learning a new way to do things … No city has ever been more strongly united in wanting to recover, rebuild, and once more be a great place to live and to work.”

The names of the quake victims will be read, before two minutes of silence at 12.51pm (10.51 AEDT).

The service follows a commemorative service at Latimer Square earlier on Wednesday focused on the families of the quake victims.

The Christchurch Earthquake Awards, recognising the service, kindness and heroism of those who helped following the quake, will take place at Hagley Park from 2pm (midday AEDT).

Japanese assistance with earthquake rescue 

The mayor offered a special message to the large contingent of Japanese media attending the commemorations, after 28 Japanese students were among 115 people in the collapsed Canterbury TV building.

He recalled the assistance Japanese urban search and rescue (USAR) personnel gave in Christchurch following the quake.

“At the end of each shift, those Japanese USARs, their overalls by this time blackened by the burning building, covered in dust, and sometimes their uniforms torn as well, would … march back to their camp in Latimer Square,” he said.

“That’s a vision that every person in this remembers – we remember their courage, and we remember the loss of the beautiful young souls from Japan.”

The mayor says Christchurch has been uplifted by the return of other Japanese students to study in the city.