Windy weather hampers Christchurch search

Thursday 03rd Mar 2011 by theWeather Club

While it is being kept off the front pages by events elsewhere in the world, the effect of the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch are still feeling very immediate to those involved. Strong winds and dust storms are hampering recovery work as the search for the bodies of those still missing continues. Loose bricks, planks and masonry are in danger of being blown around, creating new hazards, rescue officials say. "The conditions have been difficult, the wind is picking up and it's very dusty in the

Radio New Zealand reported that the earthquake spewed an estimated 200,000 tonnes of silt to the surface of the city, and even though more than half of it has been cleared away it is still causing a real problem. Strengthening north-westerly winds have been drying the silt and blowing it around the city centre in clouds of dust. Residents have been using face masks as strong winds - up to 70km/h (44mph) - have whipped up the silt and debris coating the streets of the city.

Superintendent Cliff warned that it might not be possible to recover all the dead from crushed buildings in New Zealand's second city. The death toll now stands at 160, but Mr. Cliff said could it climb up to 240. It has been estimated that up to a third of the city's buildings have been, or will have to be, demolished. Business leaders have begun raising questions about the future of the city centre. "Speed is going to be of the essence here," said Richard Ballantyne, executive director of the Ballantynes department store, long a landmark of central Christchurch. "The longer the city is closed off, the more people will leave it, the more businesses will relocate, they'll set up in other areas, and they may like those areas and never come back to the city."

Which brings us to the heart of a problem the city now faces. Two major earthquakes in six months, have raised real questions about the about the future viability of this once populous and beautiful city. It is a question that can only be answered by the residents themselves.