Questions raised over region's quake preparedness

8:10 pm on 20 October 2011

Questions have been raised at a Royal Commission hearing on the Canterbury earthquakes about the preparedness of centres surrounding Christchurch to deal with a significant aftershock.

The hearings began this week into the earthquakes and heard evidence from scientists about the frequency of them in the region.

Canterbury has been hit by significant quakes, beginning on 4 September last year with a 7.1-magnitude tremor.

On 22 February, a shallow 6.3-magnitude quake caused severe damage to central Christchurch and other parts of the region, killing 181 people. Another 6.3 quake occurred on 13 June.

Terry Webb from GNS Science told the hearing on Thursday that the chance of another magnitude 6 quake is still about 10%.

Mr Webb says Christchurch was badly affected by the earlier quakes but the city it is now much safer, as most of the fragile buildings have been removed or cordoned off.

He says those responsible for public safety should consider if enough precautions have been taken in centres outside Christchurch that are in the aftershocks area.

GNS sought funding before fatal quake

On Thursday morning, the Royal Commission was told that GNS Science made an application to the Government to map unknown faults in Canterbury before the February quake but got no response.

GNS Science was cross-examined by Marcus Elliot, the counsel for the families of those who died.

GNS Science was asked about a funding application made after strong quake on 4 September to carry out mapping of unknown faults in Canterbury.

The application was sent to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Commission which then forwarded it on to the Ministry for Research, Science and Technology.

Kelvin Berryman from GNS Science told the hearing they submitted the application in December last year, but received no decision and the ministry has since been merged into a new structure.

Following the February quake, funding was provided to carry out mapping and several previously unknown faults were identified near Christchurch.

Earthquakes on 26 December last year and the fatal one on 22 February occurred on previously unknown fault-lines.

The section of the hearings looking at seismicity ended on Thursday and next Tuesday issues regarding liquefaction and soil types will be looked at.

The hearings are scheduled to conclude in March next year.