Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Crowds gather for Christchurch earthquake anniversary

Members of the public were allowed onto the former CTV site to pay their respects. Photo / Geoff Sloan
Members of the public were allowed onto the former CTV site to pay their respects. Photo / Geoff Sloan

The empty concrete site of the CTV Building collapse has been opened up today for grieving friends and family to pay their respects on the second anniversary of the February 22 earthquake.

After the one-hour civic memorial service in nearby Latimer Square, which was used as an emergency triage centre after the deadly quake hit at 12.51pm, many made the 100 metre pilgrimage to the CTV site.

Crowds gathered in tearful, hugging groups to pay their respects to the 115 people who perished in the six-storey building's collapse and subsequent fire.

The mourners - many from overseas who came to remember the dozens of people from the King's Education School for English Language who died - left flowers, hand-written notes and private prayers.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority says the site will be open until 6.30pm.

A sign posted on a security fence says, "Our hearts and thoughts are with you all today."

Earlier, at the intimate memorial service attended by around 1000 people, Prime Minister John Key said February 22 will always be a poignant day for the people of Canterbury.

Addressing grieving families, he said: "I know it's a difficult day for you. Your grief is still raw and only time can numb the pain of your loss. The city and country still feels for you."

He paid tribute to the "strength and resolve of Cantabrians" who have lost homes and businesses and suffered disruption and anxiety.

"In the face of it you've shown great heart and resilience. You have prevailed."

The anniversary was a chance to look forward also and reflect on how far it's come.

He said Christchurch will become one of the best and liveable cities in the world.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said the great sense of loss from New Zealand's worst natural disaster will "live with us forever".

The New Zealand flag fluttered at half-mast as Mayor Parker spoke about the "dreadful, frightening, terrible" magnitude-6.3 quake which struck two years ago at 12.51pm.

A rebuilt Christchurch must honour the 185 people who died in the February 22 earthquake, Mr Parker said.

The crowd was smaller today than last year, he said, but he told those there that people around the city, New Zealand and the world were looking on today and remembering what Christchurch had gone through.

Karen Van Der Velden, 44, and her two daughters Xica, 15, and Keeley, 16, got there early to stand alongside their fellow Cantabrians who've been through so much over the last two years.

"We're just showing we care," said Mrs Van Der Velden.

Beckie Young, 38, said everyone in Christchurch has been affected by the quakes and today was a chance to "stand together as a city".

Alison Chapman, 52, was emotional as she sat behind family members of the dead who hugged and supported each other.

"Every time I come into town I cry," she said. "Christchurch will never be the same."

When the mag-6.3 quake hit at 12.51pm, she was on Bealey Ave in the city centre.

"I've never seen so much, screaming, crying and bleeding as I did that day," Ms Chapman said.

- APNZ

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