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Napier earthquake

At 10:47 AM on Monday February 3, 1931 the Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand was devasted by a massive earthquake. The earthquake was centred near Napier and is estimated to have measured around 7.9 on the Richter scale.

There was damage throughout Hawke's Bay, with Napier being essentially levelled by the effects of the earthquake and ensuing fires. The local landscape changed dramatically, with the coastal areas around Napier being lifted by around two metres and some 2,230 hectares of lagoon becoming dry land. Some of this land was eventually used to build Napier's airport.

258 people were killed by the earthquake and to this day there are few buildings in Hawke's Bay taller than five stories. The death toll might have been a lot higher were it not for the navy ship Pandora (?) being in port at the time. The ship's radio was the primary means of communicating the news of the disaster to the outside world. The sailors, with the assistance of survivors, fought the fires and rescued many trapped people.

The lasting effect of the Napier earthquake was a thorough review of New Zealand building codes, which were found to be totally inadequate at the time. Many buildings built during the 1930's and 1940's are heavily reinforced, although more recent research has developed other strenghening techniques.

  • Also to add: Civil defence, what happened to the rubble, Napier Harbour Boards - the city's largest new land owner after the earthquake, Pandora memorialised in a suburb name.

  • Historical note: Monday February 3, 1931 was the first day of the school year. The weather on that day was fine and warm.

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