By Maherin Ahmed, IFRC
Staff and volunteers from the New Zealand Red Cross took part in a variety of memorial events to mark the one year anniversary of the deadly 6.3 magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of 185 people on February 22, 2011 and damaged large parts of the city of Christchurch.
Red Cross chief executive John Ware said: “The anniversary will be a reminder of loss for many people; for others it’s a celebration of life and survival. A year may have passed, but the work being done by New Zealand Red Cross in Canterbury has not ended.”
The earthquake led to the largest relief and recovery programme in the history of the New Zealand Red Cross which has so far helped 76,463 affected individuals and households. In the aftermath of the disaster the Red Cross helped set up five welfare centres and distributed 275,000 litres of water. Staff and volunteers went door to door to check on 70,000 homes. The “0800 Red Cross” emergency phone line took 73,500 calls, many from people wanting to track down missing family members, including 800 from overseas.
“Our work is now focused on the long term recovery of Christchurch. A specialised team has been set up to develop and deliver programmes for the next 3-5 years,” John Ware said. “Our Outreach volunteers are visiting people in their homes - especially the lonely and the elderly - and we are also working to link vulnerable people with agencies that can help them.”
80-year-old Reg Mundy was a part of the Red Cross 2011 Winter Assistance Grants programme. His New Brighton flat has been bitterly cold since damage from the earthquake left the wind whistling in through cracked roof tiles. During the winter he lives in his bedroom, snuggled under a rug “like a sleepy bear”, with a heater going at all times. Reg even bathes in his bedroom because the bathroom is too cold. The cash grant from the New Zealand Red Cross has helped him to cover the cost of heating his home. “It gets icy cold and the panel heater chews up a lot of electricity, but it’s so lovely to be warm at night, otherwise I get a terrible pain in my chest,” he said.
John Ware said the anniversary is an important day for New Zealand Red Cross staff and volunteers, who were on the frontline of response and relief, and continue to provide support. “Some of our people are still rebuilding their own lives while putting on a brave face and working hard to support the community,” he said. “While for others, it is now their job to help guide and lead the organisation through its recovery programme.”
Stephen Manson, a Christchurch community member and New Zealand Red Cross emergency management officer, received the Christchurch Earthquake Award for his actions during and after the September and February earthquakes. Stephen ran the Red Cross operation on the ground during the initial response stage, working with the police, fire, ambulance and council to coordinate the response. He was nominated by Christchurch community members in recognition of his generosity and courage after the back to back disasters that took such a heavy toll on the city.