New Zealand earthquake surprises experts with its level of destruction; California parallels seen
When the New Zealand earthquake struck Tuesday, Jason Ingham was preparing for a seminar on earthquake building standards in a Christchurch hotel, which began to shake.
He and his colleagues from the University of Auckland had studied damaged structures after the last Christchurch quake, which struck in September of last year. But he said they could feel immediately that Tuesday’s quake was more intense.
Ingham and the others quickly evacuated their hotel. Across Cashel Street, they saw people climbing out of the top floors of a separate hotel, which leaned to one side.
Throughout the city center, there was chaos. From the initial devastation alone, Ingham said he knew there would be serious injuries. As his group left the city, they saw many victims who were bloodied and bandaged.
“There was a mass exit of people in every direction,” Ingham said. “The first mode was just to survive.”
His group safely evacuated to a motel about a mile outside the city center. Based on initial observations and reports, Ingham said he believed this quake was very different from the previous one he studied. Although it had a lower magnitude, it occurred closer to the city, and ground acceleration was much higher.
And though most of the damage last time occurred to unreinforced-masonry buildings, many modern buildings were damaged Tuesday, Ingham said.
“Our instinct is that this exceeded the loads that even the modern buildings were designed for. We are almost certain,” said Ingham, who is an associate professor of civil engineering. “The assumption is that an earthquake of this size would have caused damage in any modern city anywhere.”
He and the other researchers planned to travel back into Christchurch Tuesday morning. He said there was a chance they would be turned away due to the ongoing search-and-rescue efforts within the city.