Christchurch earthquake: liquefaction

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Liquefaction - what happened during the earthquakes in Christchurch?

In the period between the first earthquake on 4 Sept 2010 and late 2012 the Canterbury region and the city of Christchurch in New Zealand experienced more than 15,000 aftershocks and 30 earthquakes measuring above 5 on the MW. Because of the soft soil in the region liquefaction effects had a tremendous impact.

The extent of shaking damage of the earthquake in Christchurch in New Zealand was extreme and large areas of the city (built on low-lying sediment) suffered significant liquefaction damage.

The expulsion of liquefaction material from beneath the earth surface had three significant consequences:

Over large areas of the city , the already low-lying land sank even further, leaving it more susceptible to flood damage in adverse weather conditions. As a further consequence , gravity-dependent infrastructure like sewage systems was no longer feasible.

The third effect was that the already thin layer of stable material overlying the liquefiable material was made even thinner. The consequence of this last factor was that thousands of homes were now located in areas where any further seismic activity would likely bring the first two factors into play and affect the land to the extent that it would no longer support buildings.

Dr. Astrid Zwick und Stefan Lämmle, Munich Re.

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