Video - Hon Bill English MP

By: Bill English  06-Dec-2011

Video - Hon Bill English MP

22 February 2011. Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Civil Defence Minister John Carter. Press conference on today's earthquake in Christchurch.


Firstly I want to extend my sympathies and condolences to the people of Canterbury. Today's earthquake has caused huge damage and reports are flowing in of serious injuries and loss of life.

I'm sure all New Zealanders will join with me in offering our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to all those families who are affected.

Before I go into outlining the some of the details on the ground, I want to say that our full efforts as a Government will be deployed to help the people of Canterbury deal with this disaster.

The Prime Minister has just left for Christchurch after chairing an emergency meeting of the Cabinet. Ministers are ensuring their departments can do all they can to assist the people of Canterbury and Ministers will reconvene in about two hours time to discuss next steps.

In terms of what is happening on the ground, government agencies and emergency services are still putting together a picture of the damage and devastation. Information is still coming through, this is a fast-moving situation and we will update you as we establish more ourselves.

The Prime Minister will touch down in Christchurch within the hour and will provide further updates then.

In terms of the factual situation on the ground:

  • Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has declared a state of emergency in Christchurch.
  • Police are evacuating central Christchurch and have asked for the help of the Defence Force, which is moving to establish a presence in Christchurch.
  • Two Urban Search and Rescue teams have been flown in from other parts of the country.
  • The Prime Minister has spoken with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who passed on her sympathies and thoughts. We have requested the help of an Australian search and rescue team.
  • We would like to acknowledge offers of international help and we will be taking up offers of help and expertise as and where appropriate.
  • We are aware of a number of fatalities, but are unable to confirm the exact number. Those details will be available from police as they come to hand.
  • Christchurch hospital is open. Some patients in one part of the hospital have been evacuated due to power outage but the hospital is otherwise operational.
  • Ambulances from around the South Island are heading to Christchurch and other South Island hospitals are clearing surgery lists and non-urgent patients so they can take casualties.
  • Power is widely out but we've been assured by Transpower and private power companies that they are working as fast they can to get power back on, but this could take some time.
  • Christchurch airport remains closed, with runways being assessed as a precautionary measure.
  • Lyttelton Tunnel is closed, but the Rakaia and Waimakariri Bridges on State Highway One remain open.
  • Phone lines are operational but there is significant overloading and we would ask people to only make essential calls and use texting where possible.

Civil Defence Minister will now make some comments about the civil defence situation.

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