Earthquake insurer EQC reports that damage claims from December’s magnitude 6.8 earthquake near Gisborne have passed the $24 million mark.
The quake, which struck at 8:55 p.m. on Thursday December 20th 2007, was located 50 km south-east of Gisborne at a depth of 40 km. Despite being an off-shore quake, it did not trigger a tsunami wave.
The shaking caused building collapses, smashed windows and threw decorative parapets from other buildings, damaged roads and footpaths and disrupted sewerage, water, power and telephone services. Damage to chimneys and contents of homes was widespread, and several houses suffered serious structural damage.
Insurance claims from the Gisborne area have now exceeded $22 million, with 4,486 being lodged. A further 138 claims from Wairoa total $584,000, and 630 claims from other areas including the Bay of Plenty and Wellington total $1.3 million. Holders of home or contents insurance have three months to lodge a claim for losses after an earthquake.
Immediately after the quake, Gisborne residents worked around the seriously affected areas, which included the central business district, and many businesses were back in operation just in time for Christmas. Life has now returned to normal, but the experience is still fresh in the minds of many locals who experienced about a minute of intense shaking.
Gisborne’s locally owned newspaper, The Gisborne Herald, issued a special quake supplement with its Friday evening edition on January 25th. The 24-page supplement features photos of the damage, reports of the events surrounding the quake and eyewitness accounts. There are many stories of lucky escapes, and the injury toll was remarkably low for such a heavy shake.
A petrol tanker driver recalled waves rolling along the roadway toward him as he came off the railway bridge at the bottom of the Whareratas at 88 km/h en route to Gisborne. The moving “speed humps” threw his tanker onto the right-hand side of the road but he managed to maintain control and safely delivered his 30,000 litres of petrol to the city.
The 80,000 books which had been ejected from the shelves in the H.B. Williams Memorial Library make for a shocking photo. Volunteers and staff had managed to pick up and reshelve every single book by the end of the following day and the library, which expected to be closed for up to a fortnight, was able to re-open for limited services the following Monday and was back to normal by Thursday. Whilst the building suffered some damage, none of Gisborne’s precious historical material was lost.
The supplement is good reading and provides vivid insight into how frightening a large earthquake can be. However, it lacked a map showing damaged buildings which would have helped former residents comprehend the extent of the damage. One obvious omission, was a photo of the damage to the treasured Wyllie Cottage on Stout Street. This is the area’s oldest European structure and, along with the town clock tower and the bridge from the Star of Canada, an icon for former and current residents.
The very last photo in the supplement sums up the community spirit in Gisborne in the aftermath of the earthquake. Larry’s and Sue’s sign for visitors states: GISSY ROCKS.