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Rescuers in Queensland remember the horrors and heartbreaks of the Christchurch earthquake on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy




It has been a decade since New Zealand was shaken by the deadly earthquake in Christchurch, a catastrophe that injured the city and left an indelible impact on the first Australian responses that risked their lives to help.

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake killed 185 people and injured thousands more on February 22, 2011.

About 100,000 homes were damaged and the New Zealand Insurance Council said the insurance bill exceeded $ 31 billion.

The disaster sparked an international effort to recover the mammoths.

A car is flattened by bricks and stones.
A car wrecked in a magnitude 6.3 earthquake.(AAP)

An urban search and rescue team of 69 people from Queensland was among those first deployed to the epicenter of the crisis.

Acting Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Ric Chams said the arrival at the devastated city center was “surreal.”

“It felt like a movie set everything had just been thrown at 1pm,” the Duty Inspector Chambers said.

“There were half-eaten sandwiches, coffee cups that were still half full, things just left as they were.”

A Japanese rescue worker with a working dog walks through the rubble of the CTV building following an earthquake in Christchurch.
Several nations from around the world sent rescue teams to New Zealand to help search for signs of life.(Reuters: Tim Wimborne)

Bodies pulled by ‘pancake collapse’

Of the fatalities, 115 deaths were recorded in the collapsed Canterbury Television building.

QFES chief inspector Brad Commens said the Queensland team spent days rummaging through the rubble in a desperate search for survivors.

Rescuers aboard a plane.
Queensland rescuers headed to New Zealand to help with the 2011 disaster relief.(Supplied)

“It was what is called pancake collapse,” he said.

“There were surviving gaps but unfortunately there were no people in those areas.

“During the first 58 hours we were there, we found 43 bodies from that place.”

A man holds a steel cutter next to a fire truck.
Chief Inspector Brad Commens says he and his rescue team pulled countless dead bodies from the rubble.(ABC News: Lily Nothling)

The Duty Inspector’s rooms said he and his team “would have wished they had done more” to reunite desperate relatives with their missing loved ones.

Rescue workers hold a woman survivor after she was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building in central Christchurch.
The quake is considered to be the fifth deadliest disaster in New Zealand history.(Reuters; Simon Baker)

Doctor tuned for double amputation

Victorian doctor Lydia Johns Putra was in Christchurch for a medical conference when the quake struck.

The urologist worked alongside a small rescue team to save the life of Brian Coker, who was leaning under the rubble on a collapsed office block.

A woman holds a medal.
Dr Lydia Johns Putra was awarded one of New Zealand’s highest honors for bravery after undergoing a double amputation.(ABC News: Rhiannon Stevens)

“We knew he would have to have his legs amputated because of the way he was blocked, so a plan was made to do it,” Dr Johns Putra said.

Using a pocket knife, hacksaw and tunic, the group operated in the dark to remove Mr Coker’s legs and free him from the rubble.

“I definitely remember that after the concussions were numerous, but because you end up focusing on one job, they do not seem to be recording as a result.

“So it’s not like we were doing a procedure in a heated operating theater. It was completely different.”

A collapsed house.
The deadly earthquake claimed 185 lives.(Supplied: QFES)

Mr Coker survived the incident, but 18 people in the building died during the collapse.

Dr Johns Putra was later awarded one of New Zealand’s highest honors for bravery.

“I reflect on it regularly, it’s a part of me.”

A rescue worker looks through the rubble after an earthquake at the Holy Sacrament Cathedral in Christchurch.
The deadly earthquake turned Christchurch into a disaster-resistant city.(Reuters: Simon Baker)

Public and private memorials will be held in New Zealand to commemorate the anniversary and those who died.

Incumbent Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the city had transformed over the past decade into a more livable and disaster-resistant city.

“Crises themselves present opportunities to do things differently, get new ideas and rethink the future,” she said.

“If we can make this a better place, then we do it as a legacy for their memory.”

Rescue workers search through the collapsed CTV building following an earthquake in Christchurch.
The quake struck Christchurch after noon on February 22, 2011.(Reuters: Kyodo)

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