A search and rescue worker walks through the devastated central business district of Christchurch. Picture: Mark Baker Source: AP
THOUSANDS of residents have turned their backs on Christchurch, raising questions about the city’s future.
City officials estimate one-sixth of Christchurch’s 390,000 residents – 65,000 people — have fled, terrified by incessant aftershocks or because their workplace has been affected.
Estimates are that the tremor — which killed at least 166 people — destroyed one-third of the buildings in central Christchurch and left 10,000 people homeless.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has warned that although the New Zealand Government has underwritten all employees’ wages for six weeks, prospects for the CBD’s 52,000 workers are uncertain.
Hundreds of students at the University of Canterbury are being shipped to Australia to finish their studies, while thousands of schoolchildren have enrolled elsewhere, some as far away as Auckland, after some local schools warned they could be closed for a year.
“We’re leaving for an indeterminate period,” said resident Kerry Kinsman, who has to pass through police and army roadblocks just to leave her street.
“I’m sick of having earthquakes every day. In the centre, right where we live, we feel them a lot.”
While the exodus is undeniable, experts believe it will only be temporary, with the city’s location in Canterbury’s rich farming heartland and proximity to the major port of Lyttelton still strong drawcards for busin