Christchurch Earthquake 10th Anniversary

This Monday 22 February 2021 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, an event that will forever be entwined with the history of the Society.

The terrifying events in central Christchurch at 12:51pm on 22 February 2011, coincided with the USANZ ASM and consequently many Members and friends of the Society were involved in the first response on the day.

USANZ acknowledges the 185 lives lost and recognises the collective efforts of our Members, many of whom placed themselves at significant risk to help rescue people trapped in the unstable buildings. While the descriptions below go a long way to convey the extraordinary acts of the day, it is the individual stories of the people who were present that resonate long after the event and reinforce the strength of the human spirit. 

USANZ encourages any Members and friends of the Society to share their experiences of the day - be it an unforgettable image or a personal account of a moment of hope amongst the rubble - on our social media channels Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook on Monday 22 February 2021.

The destructive events of the day inspired the creation of the Christchurch Medal for Bravery, awarded to a person in recognition of their bravery and self-sacrifice, where they risked injury and/or death to save the life or render assistance to someone in need. The first four medal recipients, along with a brief description of their heroic stories, were:

Lydia Johns Putra

Ballarat, VIC

Lydia Johns Putra was part of a team that performed bilateral above-the-knee amputation to free a man trapped under concrete in a collapsed building in central Christchurch, shortly after the earthquake struck. Her only instrument was a pocket knife with a saw to perform the surgery. At considerable personal risk, Lydia crawled under tons of concrete to perform the life-saving surgery in an unstable building that continued to be rocked by large aftershocks.

Stephen Mark

Christchurch, NZ

Stephen Mark provided medical assistance to the injured in the Arts Centre, before searching for survivors in the collapsed Cathedral. He then went on to aid three people trapped on the top floor of The Press Building. After accessing the roof via a cage suspended from a crane, Stephen entered the partially collapsed structure through a hole cut by the rescue team and despite regular aftershocks, provided pain relief and support to two women trapped under debris for several hours until they were extricated.

Stuart Phillip

Brisbane, Qld

Stuart Phillip from Brisbane demonstrated leadership, skill, and bravery along with Lydia Johns Putra in a precarious situation atop a destroyed building resuscitating, operating on, and attempting to retrieve injured persons. Stuart’s communication skills, lateral thinking in co-ordinating, along with Lydia, setting up an emergency resuscitation and triage service made him invaluable to the operation.

Julian Shah

England, UK

Julian Shah assisted in the rescue of a woman trapped on the top floor of the severely damaged Christchurch Press Building. After negotiating the last two flights of stairs, which had been reduced to rubble, on his hands and knees he assisted the trapped and severely injured victim until she was freed from under a beam and transferred to a crane rescue bucket.  At that moment a severe aftershock further damaged the stairs and upper floors leaving Julian and his fellow rescuers no choice but to jump onto the roof of the adjoining building – a gap of some 1.5 metres, five stories up.

Watch the video produced for the Presentation of the Inaugural Christchurch Medals
Access the media release: Urologists Recall Heroic Colleagues on 10th Anniversary of Christchurch Earthquake

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