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The Salvos served thousands of meals daily to survivors of the New Zealand earthquakes


Multiple earthquakes left many dead, hundreds homeless and buildings destroyed in the south island of New Zealand. 

In early September, the first earthquake struck 30 kilometers from Christchurch - the country's second largest city. Leaving a NZ$1.4 billion repair bill, the 7.1-magnitude earthquake left about 75% of Christchurch's citizens without power for some time.   

The second earthquake was more devastating. Striking the country's north and south islands in February, the tremors claimed 181 lives, leaving many others injured.

On the night after the earthquake, The Salvation Army served around 1,500 meals to those unable to return to their homes. At another stage, officers, staff and volunteers provided up to 2,000 meals a day at centers, and - with the help of World Vision and Westpac - basic necessities like foodstuff and toiletries were distributed to around 25,000 affected households. 

In 2010, the Salvos distributed 4,000 'Care Cards'  - each uploaded with NZ$500 - to affected households. The project was developed with Westpac Bank.

The Salvos also provided much-needed psychological support to victims of the crisis. As part of New Zealand's - Suburban Squads - support teams with 10 individuals including engineers and city councilpersons - the Salvos conducted interviews, asking whether or not the victims needed food, water or any medical attention.

Salvation Army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lyndon Buckingham responded to both the 2010 and 2011 tragedies. Lieutenant-Colonel Buckingham said that the level of trauma was extensive and often downplayed by survivors.  

'Our experience from the September quake was that the emotional shock and after-effects can be great, long-lasting and are often downplayed by those affected,' Lieutenant-Colonel Buckingham said.

As a result of the earthquakes recurring tremors and after-effects, The Salvation Army found that many of the victims' fears and shock was unresolved. Lieut-Colonel Jenny Barnard was also a part of the recovery process of the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, and discovered that the effects are very different for earthquake survivors.

'An earthquake event is radically different from Australians' experiences of bushfires. There was not the same loss of life, but neither is there the same sense of the event concluding. With the bushfires, every day took you further into safety and recovery, but it's not the same in Christchurch,' Lieut-Colonel Barnard said.

'There is a very real fear of recurrence with the earthquakes, especially as tremors are still happening.'

Major Anne Farquharson said that the Salvos were critical in helping the government to 'door-knock' to help alleviate distress at this time.

'There was an old lady who had walked a kilometer to the recovery centre with her walking frame. Her house was damaged and she'd been told to go online: patently bad advice for her, ' Major Farquharson said.

'As a result of her situation - and similar instances - government teams were galvanized to get out into the communities, to ' doorknock ' people rather than having their employees sit in offices or wait in recovery centers. They did so with The Salvation Army accompanying them. '