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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bare earth marks Christchurch's greatest loss from earthquake (CTV)

Bare earth marks Christchurch's greatest loss from earthquake

Last updated 05:00 09/03/2011

John Hamilton
A TRAGIC TALE: Civil Defence National Controller John Hamilton, with Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, addresses the media at the cleared CTV site where dozens of earthquake victims lost their lives.

In the spot where the Christchurch quake took scores of victims, little remains.

A couple of piles of rubble and a tall, skinny lift shaft, charred black by fire but not yet safe to take down, mark the CTV site.

"This site, like many other sites in the city, is quite self-explanatory," Mayor Bob Parker said.

It is a yawning hole in the middle of the city.

At one corner there are flowers, while waist-high orange plastic fencing rings the site.

Two weeks ago firefighters, search-and-rescue workers and ordinary citizens rushed to help at the collapsed building. On Saturday morning, 11 days after the quake, rescue workers gave up any hope of finding a miracle survivor. What was left of the seven-storey structure was mostly cleared away.

It may never be known how many were rescued. It will certainly be weeks, probably months, before we know how many were lost.

Parker said this site, more than any other, told the tragic tale of February 22.

"In this building were people from all around the world," he said.

"Young students here as guests in our city studying English. There were other small businesses that reached out to different people.

"They were just here. They were just doing what they did every day, and this was repeated all over the city."
Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton, usually a model of formality, revealed a flicker of emotion.

He grew up in this city and has his own memories.

"But I haven't been through the trauma and the heartache that the people of the city have," he said.

"It is just mind-boggling."

It may be months before Christchurch people get to see the solemn spot.

Parker said they would be able to walk through parts of the city to witness the destruction when the country mourned next week.

What might become of the site was a distant thought.

Parker said it would be for the people to decide. "This is a violent, terrible thing. You cannot undo the memories – we all have to live with that," he said.

"But we will turn that into a positive energy and a sense of optimism for our future.

"This needs to be a living, functioning city to honour the promise that we are making to those that we have lost."

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