Safety of Canterbury people top priority

  • John Carter
Civil Defence Earthquake Recovery

The day after the 7.1 earthquake hit Christchurch and surrounding areas, the safety of people in the area remains the top priority for Civil Defence Minister John Carter.

"I visited the affected areas yesterday afternoon and it is not until you get there on the ground that you are aware of what a significant natural disaster this has been," Mr Carter said.

"People of course want to see the affected areas get back to normal as soonas possible, particularly the central business district of Christchurch. However, the infrastructure damage is significant and until such damage is assessed officials and emergency staff in the area and the Government must make the safety of civilians the number one priority.

"For this reason, all schools in Christchurch have been closed on Monday and Tuesday (6 and 7 September). Because of the nature of this particular earthquake and damage to the earth such as liquefaction, it requires experts to assess the safety of public buildings. We must ensure children and young people, some of whom have been already traumatised by this event, are safe and secure.

"Most schools are likely to open Wednesday, but again, safety must come first.

"There are aftershocks and there is bad weather coming. It is vital that people remain prepared tonight and tomorrow by doing things such as keeping torches handy and monitoring the situation via the media and information phone lines and websites.

"If you are in any doubt about your safety, please use the welfare centres that have been set up to care for people, or call 0800 779 997.

"It has been tremendous to see the people of Canterbury rally around each other in this disaster and this has certainly reduced demand on the welfare centres. It is a great testament to our country that Kiwis can call on family, friends and neighbours - and even in some cases strangers - in times ofemergency.

"The Government wants to work with Cantabrians to get life back to normal as soon as possible and Cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss this issue.

"As Civil Defence Minister I believe our civil defence emergency managementsystem is working exactly as it should. All the people on the ground in Canterbury are doing amazing job and the media have run extra programmes and bulletins to keep people informed."