The Earth knows how to rock and roll. Tragedy hit Ecuador last Saturday with an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude. It’s unavoidable – the power of geological forces struck, taking over 500 lives and injuring over 4000 people. Such devastation. I was in Ecuador three months ago and discovered a beautiful country with a poor economy. Now rebuilding the country will cost billions of dollars – how will the economy survive? Earthquake tragedies leave their mark; people and cities are never the same again. This would be a ripe topic to teach across a number of subjects in school – including science, geography, history and social studies. We need to be prepared.
I have escaped the horrors of many natural disasters. I was summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa when the surprise earthquake of magnitude 7.1 occurred in my hometown of Christchurch on the 4th September in 2010. Another disastrous earthquake followed the next year on the 22nd February. Although it was lower in magnitude at 6.3, it claimed the lives of 185 people. A national state of emergency was declared for ten weeks, with considerable overseas assistance providing emergency assistance. It was the largest emergency response operation ever seen in New Zealand.
The city’s core has literally had a heart attack. Slowly shops are coming back to life, with many initially making use of temporary shipping containers. Today when I walk around Christchurch, the evidence is still raw, but the city has come a long way. Road works continue, as road cones colour many streets. In fact it’s become the orange icon. It’s also a tradition to place flowers in the top of road cones on Remembrance Day. But it’s not just flower power – even the orange icon is decorated for Christmas and Easter.
New Zealand is not alone – the Pacific Rim of Fire creates a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Japan’s earthquake in March 2011, resulted in nearly 16 000 people dead, mostly by drowning. The 9.0-earthquake struck first, followed by a savage tsunami and then a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. More deadly, was the 9.1 earthquake in Sumatra in 2004, killing around 230, 000 people. That is a lot of people dead from natural disasters.