Christchurch earthquake: Emergency toilets coming from China

By Derek Cheng

Christchurch Mayor Bob Paker demonstrates how one of the portable toilets works. Photo / Greg Bowker
Christchurch Mayor Bob Paker demonstrates how one of the portable toilets works. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Government is urgently sourcing temporary toilets for the hard-hit eastern suburbs of Christchurch, where until this week there was one portable or chemical toilet for every 23 people.

A Civil Defence report to Prime Minister John Key yesterday shows that more than 25,000 chemical toilets are on their way from China, while more than 1000 portable toilets are coming from America and Australia. But most are not expected to arrive until later this week or next.

Last week, when residents became angry at the lack of power, water and sewerage infrastructure after the February 22 earthquake, only 1322 portable and 3000 chemical toilets from Australia had been distributed.

Mr Key said 80 per cent of the city now had running water, 96 per cent had power and half the city had flushing toilets. But that still left 158,000 people with no access to toilets, though the report downgraded this to 100,000, taking into account those who have left.

"There is an urgent need to provide sewerage services," the report said. "The aim is to supply one temporary toilet for every four persons ... Priority has been given to essential service locations [medical facilities, etc] and main streets and thoroughfares."

Yesterday Mr Key defended the Government response.

"I want to assure people that everything that can be done is being done, in terms of restoring essential infrastructure. What is clear is that we don't have enough of these chemical toilets and port-a-loos. That situation is being rectified as quickly as possible by bringing more in from overseas."

He rejected suggestions that resources were being sent to those who did not need them as much as people in the eastern suburbs.

"There is no evidence from the report that they have been allocated on anything other than need, and that need is being assessed all the time."

Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel has previously criticised the response.

"The council is so stupid ... Do you know how they allocated the port-a-loos? It was who rang their 0800 number the most. If you don't have power, phone ... how can you ring?"

The report said the temporary loos had so far been distributed fairly, "with some clustering occurring in areas with difficult access and unstable terrain". It said delivery dates for more toilets might not be met, and more might still be needed as the damage to sewerage infrastructure might not be known for several months. It did not say when the temporary toilets were first sought.

Once all the sourced temporary toilets have been deployed, there should be one for every 3.08 people in affected areas. Some portable toilets had been stolen. Some chemical toilets had not been used correctly, and multilingual instructors were being sought to give instructions.

The Government yesterday also extended the state of national emergency for a further seven days.

- NZ Herald

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