Lifelines performance and management following the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, New Zealand: Highlights of resilience

Sonia Giovinazzi, Thomas Wilson, Craig Davis, Daniel Bristow, Max Gallagher, Alistair Schofield, Marlene Villemure, John Eidinger, Alex Tang

Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, Vol. 44, No. 4, December 2011. doi: 10.5459/bnzsee.44.4.402-417


A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the city of Christchurch at 12:51pm on Tuesday 22 February 2011. The earthquake caused 182 fatalities, a large number of injuries, and resulted in widespread damage to the built environment, including significant disruption to the lifelines. The event created the largest lifeline disruption in a New Zealand city in 80 years, with much of the damage resulting from extensive and severe liquefaction in the Christchurch urban area. The Christchurch earthquake occurred when the Canterbury region and its lifelines systems were at the early stage of recovering from the 4 September 2010 Darfield (Canterbury) magnitude 7.1 earthquake. This paper describes the impact of the Christchurch earthquake on lifelines by briefly summarising the physical damage to the networks, the system performance and the operational response during the emergency management and the recovery phase. Special focus is given to the performance and management of the gas, electric and road networks and to the liquefaction ejecta clean-up operations that contributed to the rapid reinstatement of the functionality of many of the lifelines. The water and wastewater system performances are also summarized. Elements of resilience that contributed to good network performance or to efficient emergency and recovery management are highlighted in the paper.

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