New Zealand claims to hold 'world first' national earthquake drill


Christchurch Cathedral, seven months after the Feb. 22, 2011 earthquake that snapped its iconic spire in two and caused severe structural damage.


Cameron Spencer

New Zealand has held what it claimed was the world's first national earthquake drill.

According to the Fairfax media, more than 1.3 million people dropping to their knees, covering their heads and finding cover under a table or other shelter at exactly 9:26 a.m. local time.

Modeled on the Great California ShakeOut, the New Zealand ShakeOut was held 18 months after a quake in Christchurch, on New Zealand's south island, killed 185 people.

It also came minutes after a small 2.8 magnitude earthquake hit 15 miles south of Wanganui, on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

The Civil Defense Ministry reportedly called the drill a success, however the New Zealand Herald reported that whole communities were ambivalent about the drill, "with most people" in the region of Canterbury — where Christchurch is located — "ignoring it completely."   

Despite the widely circulated pictures of children crouched under their desks, shoppers and business people in Christchurch "barely blinked when the Civil Defense sirens sounded," the Herald wrote. 

"We've had drills every day for the last two years," the paper quoted businessman Paul Lonsdale as saying, referring to the frequent earthquakes in the region.

"We won't really stop for anything less than a five [magnitude]," said stay-at-home mum Rebecca Taylor, 35. 

"We've had 12,500 aftershocks, or earthquakes, so we know what to do."

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