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24 December 2011

Damage from quakes psychological - PM

Prime Minister John Key says the most significant damage from Christchurch's recent aftershocks is psychological.

Liquefaction and flooding were still causing problems in the eastern suburbs following two magnitude-5.8 and 6.0 quakes.

There have been 36 shakes since the first quake at 1.58pm yesterday, with many over magnitude-4.

But Key told a media conference this afternoon that the city's infrastructure was ''largely back up and operational''.

"What we can conclude is that the most significant damage from the earthquakes is really the psychological damage and the impact on the confidence of the people of the Christchurch.

"I think this is a year when they are looking very much forward to seeing the end of it and I think we have all been hoping that since June the situation would be calming down.

''This is quite a blow to the people of Canterbury, but I want them to know that the country is 100 per cent behind them, that our resolution to see Christchurch rebuilt has not diminished in any way as a result of the aftershocks.''

Key said a full assessment of damage would need to be undertaken to ascertain whether these later aftershocks would blow out any repair bill.

''There will be some additional cost ... but we don't think that will be overly significant ... we don't think it will have a dramatic impact on insurers.''

Meanwhile, hundreds of people picked up shovels to help with the cleanup following the swarm of earthquakes.

Cantabrians hoping Christmas celebrations would be a brighter end to a bleak year were dealing with more damage to homes, infrastructure and businesses.

Thirty Christchurch homes were still without power, but water was now restored to residents in the suburb of Sumner.

Contractors were busy filling potholes and cleaning the roads today, while volunteers also joined the cause.

"We won't get all the liquefaction out of every nook and cranny, but we'll make it safe and easy for people to move around the roads," Mayor Bob Parker said today.

The Student Army has been mobilised, and head Sam Johnson this morning said it was appealing for volunteers to give a hand on boxing day and Dec 27.

"We'll be putting on a light lunch, food in the afternoon for everyone, and we'll be clearing up the liquefaction, but getting access to people's homes is the important thing," he said.

Parker said there was real determination to not allow the quakes to ruin Christmas.

Crews have been working overnight and would continue to work today to restore all services.

"Our goal is that by the end of the day we will have made the necessary emergency repairs to our water, wastewater and roads by tonight.

"It has been a hellish year. I am determined to get as much as we can fixed by tonight so that our staff, apart from a skeleton team, can spend Christmas with their families," Parker said.

There were still 30 Orion customers without power, and the company said the network in New Brighton and Bexley would remain fragile for some time.

Parker said everyone should also have power by the end of the day.

The Christchurch Wastewater Plant was fully operational, but there were wastewater overflows into the Avon River and into the Styx.

Neighbourhood Support staff have been working closely with Civil Defence to coordinate their 2000 volunteers across the city to gather information from the badly affected areas.

Welfare teams have been door-knocking in the east and have made contact with 300 householders as well as people in the street.

Ambulance staff treated about 60 people for quake-related injuries, including falls and heart problems, but none were known to be serious last night.

Most retailers were back in business today, with Northlands Mall and The Hub Hornby open.

Riccarton Westfield was open, but some stores, including Dick Smith, were still cleaning up and would open later in the afternoon. The top floor of Farmers was also closed.

A Northlands Mall spokesman said a few shops had yet to reopen, but staff were working to clear any earthquake mess and it looked likely all stores would be trading by mid-morning.

The Palms will remain closed today, as contractors work to clear the mess wreaked by yesterday's earthquakes.

Shoppers who had left vehicles in the centre car park are now able to collect them.

Liquefaction triggered by the jolts yesterday flooded streets and properties. There were large deposits in Bexley, Avondale, New Brighton, Burwood, and Parklands.

Pegasus Avenue in New Brighton and Branksome Place in Parklands have suffered major liquefaction and sewage leaks.

Bexley resident Corey Trist, who is waiting to move from his red-zoned house into a yet to be built new home, faced a Christmas Eve of cleaning up. It was the fifth time his property had been hit by liquefaction.

"It's ruined [Christmas] for me."

Others like Avonside resident Bev Mulcay, whose house is also red-zoned, simply said: "I'm over it now. I've had enough."

Hundreds of travellers had their Christmas plans disrupted after Christchurch Airport was closed following the first quake.

The airport reopened at 5.30pm yesterday after the runways and terminal were cleared, but the backlog is not expected to be cleared until today.

Among buildings which suffered further damage was the already ruined Christ Church Cathedral in the central city. Its rose window had completely collapsed and more damage was feared after yesterday's quakes, said Dean Peter Beck.

Beck said the new quakes were a "huge emotional shock".

"We were starting to get traction again and now it feels like June 13 [which had 5.6 and 6.3 quakes] again," he said.

All Anglican services in greater Christchurch would be held outdoors this weekend.

In Sydenham, the 100-year-old former Post Office building was urgently demolished last night after sustaining further damage in yesterday's shake. The Blue Jean Cuisine building was already slated for demolition, but the work was brought forward.

Parker said the quakes were a "hammer blow" for the city's residents.

He said the jolts were a "terrible, terrible psychological blow" following a long period without a major shake.

"This pushes us back, because a lot of rechecking needs to be done. I'd say there will be a few more buildings that will need to be demolished because of this."

He was optimistic that the city's residents would remain resilient.

"I think we will bounce back pretty quickly. For some people this will be a last straw, but I think the vast majority have shown they're here to stay."

- Fairfax NZ News