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NZ earthquake 2011 recovery

Christchurch residents receive recovery personal support by New Zealand Red Cross following the devastating earthquake in February 2012.

Sue McKnight was on the seventh floor of the University of Canterbury building when the earthquake struck.

"There was a terrible time for people immediately after the earthquake. Everybody knew someone, or was connected to someone who had died."

Originally born in Australia, Sue worked as the University of Canterbury's Pro-Vice Chancellor in New Zealand from June 2010, though she left Christchurch at the end of 2011.

Her apartment was uninhabitable after the earthquake on 22 February 2011. "I've never slept there again. The building is now demolished!"

Sue stayed with friends immediately after the earthquake, then on campus for three months and then in rented accommodation before deciding to relocate to Melbourne.

"You don't realise how emergencies can affect other people. They don't just affect those directly involved. Other people are also impacted."

Sue is continuing on her recovery journey. She doesn't know anyone that moved to Victoria, but says that many people moved on to other places.

"You tend to feel guilty, like you're letting people down, because the situation there is still pretty dire. I moved but they are still there.

"I'm still surprised by how many little things remind me of the earthquake. In the first couple of months, just the sound of the roof on the house expanding was terrifying."

Slowly but surely, Sue says she is feeling more secure. "But I have stopped looking for emergency exits every time I go into a building."

Recovery support

People like Sue who survived last year's destructive Christchurch earthquake are being offered recovery support by Red Cross and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

Thousands of former Christchurch residents relocated to Australia following the earthquake. Many lost their homes or feared for their safety following the quake.

An information session has been held for people recovering physically, emotionally and socially from the devastating earthquakes.

Kate Brady, National Recovery Coordinator, says for many people affected by the earthquakes the recovery journey will be a long and difficult one that impacts them regardless of whether they remain in New Zealand or have moved elsewhere.

Since the devastating earthquakes hit New Zealand in February last year, more than 11,000 residents from the Canterbury region, which includes Christchurch, have moved to Australia.

The recovery session included presentations by expert psychologists, including Red Cross Consultant Psychologist Dr. Rob Gordon, who explained how disasters affect people and communities. Discussion is also focused on ways for survivors to look after themselves and their loved ones. Recovery workers from Red Cross will also be present.

For more information you can contact Australian Red Cross Emergency Services or assist by making a donation.

Be prepared - cope better

Storms and flash flooding can occur anytime, anywhere, as we often see. Being prepared can help us and our loved ones.

Even if we think we might not be affected, we might be choosing to holiday in a bushfire or cyclone-prone area, or we might have a family member or friend who lives in those areas.

You probably know someone, a friend, neighbour or family member, who could need help during an emergency. Talk to them about their plans and see if there is anything you can do to help them.

Four easy-to-follow steps to prepare.

How you can help.

Information on volunteering with Red Cross.


Photo: New Zealand Red Cross/Antony Kitchener