Workers Party statement on Canterbury earthquake disaster Wednesday February 23, 2011

To local and international friends, supporters, and readers,

Yesterday, February 22, an immense earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand’s third largest city. Currently there are 55 confirmed dead, 20 unidentified bodies, and an estimated 300 missing. The quake occurred at 12.50pm and was followed shortly after by a major aftershock.

This is the second major earthquake to strike Christchurch in 5 months. This more recent quake – 6.3 – in magnitude was far more destructive than the last, as it occurred only 10 Km south of
Christchurch at the shallow depth of 5 Km. It happened during the lunch hour of a working week day which has compounded human suffering and trauma.

As well as injury and loss of life there has been major damage to buildings, houses, and infrastructure. Soil liquefaction has damaged roads and transport. Originally there was an estimated 80% loss of power, as of mid-day today the estimate is now 50%. Currently three quarters of the city has no water. Phone lines and signal towers have also been wrecked or severely damaged. The Canterbury television building completely collapsed and has been one of the focal points for rescue efforts. There is concern that the Hotel Grand Chancellor- the tallest building in Christchurch – may still collapse from extreme buckling. The township of Lyttleton was at the epicenter of the earthquake and was extensively damaged.

To support local services, search and rescue, medical, and other teams have been deployed and continue to be deployed from other New Zealand cities and a range of countries including Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and the UK. A specialist urban search and rescue team from Australia was the first group of international helpers to arrive. This has highlighted the great possibilities of international solidarity.

Thousands of ordinary people have volunteered to help, including through the Red Cross and also grassroots groups such as the post-earthquake University of Canterbury Student Volunteer Army. Such voluntary activity reveals the potential for people to act in a strong spirit of social solidarity.

The government has declared a state of emergency and this afternoon held its third emergency cabinet meeting. The Christchurch City Council has advised people to help in their local communities and suburbs but to not travel. Five main welfare centers have been established in/around Christchurch.

Earthquakes are unavoidable and the government will of course do its best within the constraints of the capitalist system to coordinate the best possible response, especially in the search and rescue phase. However, because of the social inequalities inherent within capitalism, it will become particularly important for progressive organisations raise our voices high in regard to the welfare of ordinary people and those with the least resources when the city enters its recovery and rebuilding phase.

Amongst those who have suffered from the earthquake are Workers Party members and their families in Christchurch. Thankfully they are all uninjured.

At this early stage the Workers Party has no formal relationship to any particular relief provider. Currently we encourage all members, supporters, and readers to contribute financially and materially, particularly through workplace collections.

- Representative committee of Workers Party

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