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February 28, 2011 | by  | in News |
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Uncertainty for Students after Christchurch Earthquake

The University of Canterbury is in a state of uncertainty after last week’s devastating earthquake.

The shallow 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Christchurch suburb of Lyttleton at 12:51pm last Tuesday.

When Salient went to print 98 people were confirmed dead, with the number set to rise. Many people were still missing and countless buildings were damaged, many beyond repair.

Soon after the quake the University of Canterbury’s campus was evacuated and those students who were able and keen to leave were told to do so.

The University is using its website and Facebook to keep in contact with its staff and students.

“They’ve said we’ll get at least 48 hours notice of uni starting up again, which is good, and the Facebook page for the UCSA has been posting updates,” says
a student.

A message from Vice-Chancellor Rod Carr appeared on the university’s website soon after the quake stating the campus will be closed until further notice. It also said there were no injuries or fatalities on site.

One Christchurch student spoken to by Salient was in the university library when the quake hit.

“At first I thought it was just an after-shock but it quickly grew in intensity, and soon everything around me was shaking violently. Books were falling from the shelves like rain,” she says.

Another student was in a lecture at the time.

“It was so bizarre; one minute we were hearing about the Australian interpretations of indefeasibility, the next we were trying to squeeze under the lecture desks while the room shook,” she said.

She also said people were surprisingly calm in the aftermath.

“People were pretty good, actually, I was surprised by how orderly the exit was.”
Some students have been lucky enough to escape the city.

“Our flat was structurally fine… We didn’t have power, so we’ve gone to Ashburton until that gets sorted.”

While huge numbers of people were left without power and water, many students who do have these facilities have shown kindness to those less fortunate.

“We were some of the lucky few who still had water, power, phone and internet,” says one student. “[We] will have a few extras staying with us for a few days too.”

Lincoln University is suffering similar uncertainty. On Thursday, a message from their Vice-Chancellor Roger Field on their website said that there is no guarantee they will be open next week.

“First, we are concerned about staff and students, their circumstances and ability to travel, particularly those outside Canterbury. The second issue is that decisions need to be made by Government and local agencies on whether the Canterbury infrastructure can support the opening of major institutions.”

The Christchurch community has shown remarkable spirit in the face of the disaster.

“We have decided to stay in Christchurch and help out those affected as much as possible over the next few days with shovelling/cleaning up debris etc,” said a student.

Such solidarity has also been seen in the wider New Zealand student community.
Within hours of the earthquake, Auckland University Student Association (AUSA) had begun a street appeal to raise funds for the devastated city.

“No words can express the horror of the scenes we have seen coming in from Christchurch,” said AUSA President Joe McCrory.

“The street appeal is being co-ordinated by the students’ association and will be running throughout Orientation next week and fresher’s orientation this week.

“Thoughts of every University of Auckland student are with the people of Christchurch, their families and friends.”

The Victoria University Students’ Association expressed similar feelings of shock and sympathy and is launching similar relief efforts.

“VUWSA will be doing as much we can to offer any help to students at both Canterbury and Lincoln University. [Last Thursday we started] an on-campus appeal for donations during new students’ orientation, at our Orientation gigs and during the free sausage sizzles throughout Clubs Week. Our Student Advocate is also available to offer any form of assistance needed by our students,” said Seamus Brady, president of VUWSA.

“This is quite simply horrific. There are many students from Christchurch at Victoria, including a large cohort who just moved into Halls of Residences on Sunday.

“I’m also aware of number of staff who have family in Christchurch, some of whom are still trying to make contact with them. Our thoughts are with
them all.”

Victoria is providing support to those students who need it. The Counselling Service is offering open support groups at 10am and 2pm each day this week.

If students need to see someone urgently they can pop into Mauri Ora (Level One, Student Union Building) between 9am and 5pm.

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