A Very Moving Exhibition Called ‘Beyond the Cordon’ in Canterbury Museum
The 22nd of February 2011 Christchurch earthquake was New Zealand’s second-deadliest natural disaster, triggering an unprecedented emergency response. The magnitude 6.3 earthquake, which struck at 12:51 pm, resulted in the death of 185 people at locations across the city and suburbs, as well as thousands of injuries.
Christchurch, the country’s second largest city, suffered widespread devastation to buildings, homes, land and infrastructure. A national state of emergency was in place for ten weeks as emergency services, engineers, soldiers, contractors and other specialists worked to rescue and recover the lost and the missing, make buildings safe, restore essential services and bring relief to the city.
The task of visually documenting the rescue and victim recovery operation fell to New Zealand Police photographers. A team of twenty three Police forensic photographers, nine from Christchurch and fourteen from around New Zealand mobilsed within hours of the quake and for weeks worked around the clock in the central city, at suburban locations and at the temporary mortuary at Burnham Military Camp. They were there primarily as part of the disaster victim identification – DVI, formally recording each detailed step in the recovery and identification process as Police sought to return loved ones to their families.
As the rescue, recovery and demolition operations went on around them, however, they realised there were images that needed to be captured. With the central city in lock-down because of the risk of aftershocks, Police photographers were the only photographers with long-term access to the central city throughout the following weeks. Working in the often hostile conditions – smoldering rubble, flying shards of concrete, the constant threat of aftershocks as they perched precariously on collapsed buildings – they took every opportunity to record what they saw around them, including aspects of the operation that would otherwise remain undocumented.
Some of these images have been published in Christchurch 22.2 – Beyond the Cordon, New Zealand Police, published by Hodder Moa, 2011. The book is an emotional journey through this tragic event and we would recommend it to all. The New Zealand Police donated all royalties from Beyond the Cordon to the Family Help Trust, as a government agency they were not in a position to accept royalties from the sale of the book. The Trust, a child abuse prevention service for high risk families in Christchurch assists families by teaching the skills they need to improve their lives and those of their children.
We always ask when we enter any environment if we can take pictures and record our images in the blogs that act as our diary. We were very moved by this exhibition. You can always tell when we stand stock-still and watch, no words exchanged, not felt in the same way since we stood in the 9/11 Museum in NYC. These are our pictures of their pictures.
Christchurch’s suburbs did not escape the devastation. Homes heaved and buckled, tens of thousands of dwellings suffered damage. Lakes of liquefaction erupted, ground levels shifted and underground infrastructure was torn apart. The human toll was significant. Massive landslides crushed houses and buildings. Fifteen people lost their lives in suburban locations, including two people who were caught in rockfalls on tracks on the Port Hills.
PGC House – The Pyne Gould Corporation Building on Cambridge Terrace occupied a picturesque spot on the banks of the Avon River, but became a twisted, broken mess when it collapsed in the earthquake. Although many people escaped or were rescued from the four-storey office building, eighteen people died. Access to the damaged building was a challenge for rescue and recovery teams. Crane operators were a vital part of the effort, with cranes often providing the only safe access to parts of the site.
The Canterbury Television – CTV building in Madras Street, in the central city, suffered a catastrophic collapse and subsequently caught fire. A total of one hundred and fifteen lives were lost at this site. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake rescuers worked around the clock, often in intense heat, thick smoke and on dangerous rubble, to locate survivors. Efforts to locate and identify victims continued for weeks. Urban Search and Rescue – USAR teams from around the world worked alongside local colleagues, contractors and Disaster Victim Identification specialists in the painstaking task of recovering and identifying remains for return to their families.
To Police and Rescue Workers everywhere – Thank You.
ALL IN ALL AN EXTRAORDINARY COLLECTION
DRAMATIC AND SAD