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Feb22TueSalvation Army in New Zealand responds after earthquake brings destruction February 22, 2011 by Major Christina Tyson
The New Zealand city of Christchurch was hit by a huge earthquake on Tuesday, February 22. The Salvation Army is responding to the second major earthquake to affect the city in less than six months. At least 65 people are known to have been killed and – at time of writing – hundreds are trapped in the debris.
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- International News
The 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck at 12.51 pm local time, causing structural damage and total destruction of some buildings. Vehicles were crushed by falling debris. Medical triage centres have established around the city and the mayor of Christchurch has declared a state of emergency.
The city of Christchurch and parts of the surrounding region were still rebuilding after a 7.1 earthquake that struck in the early hours of September 4, 2010. While that earthquake damaged buildings and made some homes inhabitable, there were no deaths and only a small number of injuries. The February 22 earthquake – said by seismologists to be an aftershock to the 2010 quake – was of a lesser magnitude than that in September but it was closer to the city centre and nearer to the surface, which is why the damage is more significant.
By late afternoon The Salvation Army was assisting more than 1,000 people at a welfare site established near the inner city at Hagley Park. Shocked and grief-stricken locals are temporarily being housed in large marquees that were already on site for a flower show.
Major Rex Cross, emergency services co-ordinator for The Salvation Army in Christchurch, said that The Salvation Army was calling its emergency response teams together. Travel across the city was extremely difficult, however, and people are being told to stay away from the city centre.
Catering supplies have been organised for around 1,500 people, says Major Cross, giving assurance that 'food is on its way and people will be fed'.
He adds: 'You just cannot imagine the enormity of this [quake] compared to the first one.'
Some Salvation Army buildings have been damaged. The Salvation Army's community ministry centre in Christchurch has been severely damaged, with significant damage to Christchurch City Corps (Salvation Army church). The Salvation Army's South Island headquarters has also been affected.
The Salvation Army was involved in the initial response to last year's earthquake and has continued to assist with welfare and psychosocial support.
'The situation in Christchurch is extremely serious,' says Commissioner Don Bell, commander of The Salvation Army's New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory. 'Our prayers are with the city of Christchurch – we pray for our own people, for their friends and neighbours. We pray that God will give strength and hope to those who are in shock, and help rescue efforts.
'The Salvation Army stands ready to continue to help the city in this terrible time of great grief and human need.'
The Salvation Army has relaunched its Canterbury Earthquake Appeal in expectation of great humanitarian need. National fundraising co-ordinator Major Robbie Ross says the region has suffered terribly since last September's earthquake and a tremendous effort was now required to help those already living with the hardships and psychological effects of the original quake and its aftershocks.
'Our experience with the September quake showed us the great emotional shock such an event can have on people – and now there is the added dimension of people grieving for loved ones,' he says. 'There will be a myriad of material needs by those who have lost possessions and homes. We are appealing for cash donations to strengthen our response.'
Salvation Army earthquake response under way in New Zealand—update February 23
The Salvation Army's earthquake response programme in Canterbury, New Zealand, is under way. Salvation Army officers (ministers) and volunteers are feeding and caring for Canterbury residents displaced by the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit the region around Christchurch on Tuesday, February 22. With large loss of life reported and many people still missing, sorrow continues to engulf the South Pacific nation.
Salvation Army teams from its three North Island divisions, along with teams from the South Island corps (churches) of Mosgiel and Queenstown, comprising 50 people, are on the way to Christchurch. Other teams across South Island are on standby.
Last night, the first since the earthquake struck, Salvation Army volunteers served 1,500 meals to those unable to go back to their homes and staff provided support at emergency welfare centres.
Damage to The Salvation Army's Southern Divisional Headquarters, as well as to Christchurch City Community Ministries Centre and Christchurch City Corps, means a temporary operations centre to oversee recovery work has been set up at Sydenham Corps. Southern Division and territorial headquarters (THQ) staff are now assessing the situation across the affected area to determine the exact nature of the Army's response. With mobile communications in the region patchy at present, communications equipment including radios, satellite phones and computers is being transported from THQ to Sydenham.
Linwood Corps and Community Ministries, which has shouldered a large part of The Salvation Army's recovery work since the larger but less deadly September 2010 earthquake, suffered mainly superficial damage. Its officers, staff and volunteers are preparing for a steep increase in demand. Christchurch City Community Ministries Centre will not reopen in the immediate future due to quake damage and its staff are being redeployed to Linwood.
Major Campbell Roberts, who is coordinating The Salvation Army's emergency response, says the quake is a tragedy beyond description but that the Army's experience since September and the high morale of officers and volunteers puts it in good stead to respond effectively.
Salvation Army teams are at Wellington and Auckland airports to meet hundreds of people who have been evacuated from the quake zone and offer support and light refreshments.
The Salvation Army relaunched its Canterbury Earthquake Appeal yesterday. There has been a strong response from the public and from potential corporate donors. The Salvation Army's USA Western Territory is donating US$200,000 to assist with the Army's earthquake recovery efforts. The Australia Southern Territory is donating Aus$50,000.
Large and small-scale fundraising is being organised around New Zealand. An international track meet scheduled for Christchurch this weekend was cancelled after the quake. Athletes now plan to stage a fundraising meet in Wellington to support The Salvation Army's earthquake appeal.
The Salvation Army's international leader, General Shaw Clifton, was New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territorial Commander from 2002 to 2004. He informed current territorial commander Commissioner Don Bell that the prayers of International Headquarters were with the victims of the earthquake. 'We are shocked, unhappy and downcast to hear overnight of a further quake in lovely Christchurch,' he said. 'We stand with you and your people in what you will do to offer relief.'
Commissioner Bell will soon visit the earthquake zone to encourage Salvation Army personnel.