The New Zealand city of Christchurch has a long road to recovery after Tuesday’s 6.3 magnitude earthquake, according to the President of the Greek Orthodox Community in Christchurch, Panayiotis Halloumis.
Mr Halloumis, who spoke to Neos Kosmos on Wednesday, described the situation as an “absolute catastrophe”.
“There won’t be a single road that doesn’t need fixing,” Mr Halloumis said. “I was amazed, and I’m not a person that’s easily amazed, but it’s just a catastrophe. I don’t know how long it will take to fix but it’s going to be a mess for a long time.”
Sand, water and mud have leaked through concrete following the massive quake, leaving roads in disastrous states.
Communication has been extremely difficult with land lines not functioning and mobile phones and Internet only working sporadically, Mr Halloumis said. “About 300 people are still missing but we don’t know if that’s because they’re caught under rubble or just because they can’t make contact,” he added.
Greek community members in Christchurch have escaped injury, though some of the community members’ houses suffered damages so great they will have to be knocked down, Mr Halloumis said.
“We have some damage to our community’s church, the school and one of our properties, but I haven’t been able to get there to assess it as most of the roads are closed.” The priest, school-teacher and their families who live on the properties were not hurt, but are still “shaken” by the disaster, Mr Halloumis said.
Authorities have advised people to stay at home, though roads and areas are quite crowded, with many stocking up on food at any supermarkets or open stores. The civil defence have also set up tents to distribute food to the homeless and those in need, Mr Halloumis said.
Damage throughout the city is devastating, Mr Halloumis said. “I saw a lot of damage as I was making my way back home after the quake,” he said. “It was incredible and the aftershocks are non-stop.”
Mr Halloumis believed the quake to be just a tremor or aftershock at the time, and described the experience as “frightening”. ”
Even though this earthquake was a lower magnitude than the September quake last year, this disaster happened during the day when there were lots of people in the city and at work. It was much shallower and the epicentre was closer to the city; that’s what caused the big disaster,” he said. “This time it was catastrophic”.
Mr Halloumis said there was no warning ahead of the devastating quake.
“There were some predictions a big one would strike in March, but most people wouldn’t have taken it too seriously,” he said. “I don’t know how they’re going to rebuild the city, the damage is to the roads, the streets, the buildings, everything. It will be a long time until it’s fixed.”
Theo Kerdemelidis, owner of Santorini Greek Ouzeri Restaurant in Christchurch’s central city, is still without power, water and a landline telephone at his home.
He told Neos Kosmos on Thursday that engineers checking his restaurant found no structural damage to the exterior but are unable to assess inside at this stage.
Mr Kerdemelidis said he had heard some families in the Greek community have suffered major damage to their homes and have been forced to move in with family and friends.
“Communications are tough at the moment,” he said. “Christchurch will take some time to recover from this quake.”