CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – The city of Christchurch marked on Friday the eighth anniversary of an earthquake that killed 185 people and caused extensive damage from which New Zealand’s oldest city is still recovering.
Of the victims, 115 people were killed when the six-story Canterbury Television Building collapsed. Among them were 28 Japanese, as well as other foreign nationals, who were studying English at a language school on the third floor of the building.
A small service at the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial on the banks of the Avon River included a minute’s silence at 12:51 p.m. to mark the exact time the magnitude 6.3 quake struck on Feb. 22, 2011.
Mayor Lianne Dalziel said in her remarks that the community continues to gather each year to ensure the lives of those who were lost “live on not only in the memories of those who loved and knew them well, but also in our collective memories.”
She also paid tribute to the foreign victims, saying, “Christchurch is the final resting place to many from overseas (and we acknowledge) what that means to their families.”
Kazuo and Seiko Horita, who lost their 19-year-old daughter Megumi in the building collapse, were among the families who traveled from Japan to attend the service.
Upset about a lack of justice, Kazuo, her father, said, “I intend to keep seeking an apology from the city of Christchurch for approving the construction of a faulty building.”
Also in attendance were Kikuo and Chizuko Suzuki, who have traveled to Christchurch from Nagoya every year since their daughter Yoko, a 31-year-old nurse who was studying English at the King’s Education language school, died in the collapse.
Kikuo, 72, lamented the decision by the authorities not to pursue criminal prosecution in relation to the CTV Building collapse.
“But I also feel New Zealand did what they could under the circumstances,” he said.
Eight years on, a sense of frustration lingers among some families as no one has been held responsible for the structural deficiencies blamed for the collapse of the building, which claimed more than half of the victims.
“I don’t think there is one person in New Zealand who thinks that justice is being served,” said Maan Alkaisi, who lost his wife, Maysoon Abbas, in the building’s collapse and is a spokesman for the CTV Families Group.
In 2017, the police announced they would not pursue criminal prosecution in relation to the collapse, citing a lack of evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.
Alkaisi said he is equally disappointed that a bill currently before Parliament to make it harder for negligent engineers to escape prosecution does not include reconstruction projects already underway in the city.
The “one year, one day” rule in New Zealand’s penal code prevents anyone from being held criminally responsible for a death more than a year and a day after negligence contributing to the death occurs.