Tuesday, February 22, 2011

LDS Church Reports All Missionaries In New Zealand Safe And Accounted For After Devastating 6.3 Aftershock In Christchurch

Update February 28th: Death toll now 145; video of LDS missionaries describing their earthquake experiences available in this updated post.

The relatively modern Pyne-Gould building, which has unfortunately become the symbol of the latest Christchurch earthquake
The Mormon Times reports that Scott Trotter, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has confirmed that all missionaries serving in New Zealand are safe and accounted for after the devastating 6.3 aftershock which rocked Christchurch on February 22nd, 2010. Although the Mormon Times reports the magnitude as 7.0, all other sources still report it as 6.3. Details about the status of LDS Church members, their homes and church facilities as well as the providing of humanitarian aid will be updated as more information becomes available later Tuesday.

In the original September 2010 earthquake, only two LDS chapels, Fendalton and Avonside, sustained structural damage; all other local LDS facilities sustained only cosmetic damage at the worst. The LDS temple in New Zealand is located in Hamilton on North Island and is unlikely to be affected.

The New Zealand Herald contains the most comprehensive on-site coverage of the quake and its effects. The quake struck on February 20th at 12:51 P.M. New Zealand time, right at the height of the lunch hour. Although the U.S. Geological Survey officially classifies it as an "aftershock" of the original 7.0 temblor on September 4th, 2010, the damage and the human cost appears much greater after this quake. Aftershocks continue, one as high as 5.7. Although the official death toll is 38 as of this post, it is feared it could reach as high as 300. Most of the city is currently without essential services such as gas, power, water, and phone. A number of sewer and water lines broke, flooding some streets and neighborhoods. Christchurch International Airport's new domestic terminal building, scheduled for completion in May 2012, has also suffered damage.

The effects weren't limited to Christchurch, either. The quake even shook off a massive chunk of ice from the country's biggest glacier some 120 miles (190 kilometers) east of Christchurch. Tour guides at the Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps say the quake shook some 30 million tons of ice to off the glacier, forming icebergs in the lake. The falling ice created waves up to 11-feet (3.5-meters) high, which swept up and down the lake for 30 minutes.

There are several reasons why this aftershock was more destructive. First, it it was centered only three miles (5 km) from the city, closer to where people live and work. Second, it was much shallower. Third, it took place at lunch time, when many more people were in the downtown area. And finally, many of the buildings which were damaged most likely would not have been damaged had there not been the first quake in September 2010; what this means is that many buildings which appeared to have withstood the first quake were seriously weakened at the time, but the deficiencies weren't obvious to the untrained eye.

-- New Zealand Herald providing continuous Twitter-style updates HERE.

-- New Zealand Herald portal to numerous photos and videos available HERE.

-- Jarrod Booker provides a good first-person account HERE.

-- For those who don't want to wait for LDS Humanitarian Services to set up their donation portal, a number of donation options are spelled out HERE.

No comments: