Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

20.41 22 Feb 2021


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Rugby pundit Brent Pope says the 2011 Christchurch earthquake led to the 'devastation' of a beautiful city.

The New Zealand native was speaking on the 10th anniversary of the deadly 6.3 magnitude earthquake in the country's second most populous city.

The quake left 185 people dead, and over 1,500 others injured.

It also caused major damage in Christchurch city centre, with the collapse of some older buildings leaving dozens of people dead.

Christchurch Cathedral - one of the focal points of the city centre - also suffered severe damage in the quake.

A special ceremony was held in the city on Monday. with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying there will still be people "living their daily lives in the long shadow of that day".

On the Hard Shoulder, Brent said he first heard about the February 2011 quake when he received a phone call from a friend in the middle of the night.

'I lost a couple of friends' - Brent Pope remembers Christchurch earthquake

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

He said: "He’d asked whether I’d tried to contact my parents. I knew my mother was at a horse racing meeting in the city centre when it happened… I was frantically trying to contact home.

“We only got in touch with her a couple of hours later. Thankfully she was OK, but others weren’t so lucky. Our next-door neighbour didn’t make it home… he was a young man with a young family.

“I lost a couple of friends in the earthquake… colleagues… people I’d played rugby with."

'Part of history is gone'

Brent travelled back to New Zealand soon after the earthquake, and saw the 'devastation' in Christchurch.

He observed: “The city won’t ever recover really, because part of history is gone.

"That’s not to say it’s not going to be a beautiful city - they’re putting more cycleways in, and it’s going to be more or less pedestrianised. But it has still lost some of its soul and heart.

“Property values went down, people moved… some people were too scared to stay there."

He said many people also moved out to the suburbs, rather than staying in the damaged city centre.

Brent said he always gets worried when he receives a phone call late at night, and back in February 2011 it was bad news from his home country.

He said people can feel 'very powerless' in such situations.

He recalled: "There was nothing I could do about it, and I couldn’t get hold of people quick enough to find out if they were OK."

Due to COVID-19, Brent hasn't been able to travel back to New Zealand over the past year to visit his elderly mother .

He said: "When your parents get into your 80s, a year is a long time. She's not able to speak on the phone, so I need to see her. That won't happen until the end of the year... it may be too late.

"The only family I have... they’re back in New Zealand.

“I’ve already lost dad, and I don’t know how many years of mum I have left. That’s tough.

“You can feel alone. Even though I’ve been here 30 years now… when things happen in the country of your birth, it hits at the heart.”

Main image: File photo of Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake. Picture by: Mark Baker/AP/Press Association Images

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