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1931 Napier earthquake : New Zealand’s worst

February 3, 2016

At 10.47am, 85 years ago today (3 February 1931) a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the bustling city of Napier, and surrounding areas, in Hawke’s Bay. The Napier ‘quake killed at least 256 people, and the city was largely destroyed first by the tremor and then by fire.  Ten days later, a huge 7.3 aftershock caused more damage.  This earthquake still stands as New Zealand’s worst (in the number of people killed, not the magnitude) followed closely by Christchurch 2011, which killed 185 but injured several thousand.Napier after quake

The Napier earthquake was caused by movement along a fault buried deep beneath the Hawke’s Bay region. When it moved, an area above the fault, about 90 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide, domed upward. The land and sea floor were permanently raised by as much as 2.7 metres.  Many of the survivors rushed to the beach to escape the destruction, falling masonry and fire, and found that the sea had receded significantly…fortunately, it was not an indication of tsunami but the evidence of the reclaimed land.

napier 2015However, from the ashes arose the wonderful Art Deco city of today, which has become a tourist highlight of New Zealand.  Incorporating elements that survived the earthquake, a new city was designed which is celebrated every February with the Art Deco Festival, which attracts visitors from all around the world. It also has an excellent museum which has a permanent 1931 earthquake exhibition.

There are many images from the ‘quake on Digital NZ and of course, there have been plenty of books published about this too.   If you’d like to know more about this event, there is a lot of information online and the library holds books in our non-fiction collection, see 551.22napier land




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