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Remembering the Hawke's Bay earthquake

LH9PB2 63 42

The 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake reshaped Hastings and its impact on the district will once again be remembered at the annual commemoration service being held this Monday, February 3.

The community will gather at the clock tower in Hastings city mall at 10.40am and at 10.47am the clock tower bells will ring to mark the exact moment the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck 89 years ago, taking 256 lives.

Many thousands more required medical treatment from the event that rocked the Hawke’s Bay region bringing down buildings, sparking fires, rupturing roads – mass destruction that it would take months and years to recover from.

Directly after the earthquake most homes lacked water, electricity, sewerage and chimneys, and people camped in open areas as continuous tremors made it dangerous to stay inside.

Hastings resident Peter Price was only two years old at the time of the quake but remembers being told that after it happened his mother put him in the pushchair and they went to Pakowhai School to collect his brothers and sisters.

“My sister had her arms around the headmaster’s neck and my mother had to prize her off.”

He said almost every piece of crockery in the house was broken, but the house itself was not damaged, and his mother, who was heavily pregnant with her ninth child at the time, was cooking meals for extra people who were worse off.

“She went into hospital in June to have the baby but there was no room so she had the baby at home.”

Resilience came to the forefront following the disaster that claimed the 1910 town clock on the post office building.

Undeterred, the people of Hastings built a taller, stronger clock tower in 1935 and placed it in the middle of the town.

They rescued the chimes used in the 1910 clock and placed them in the new clock tower. The old would be remembered by all in town as the chimes rang out on the hour, but the new Hastings would be celebrated with the Art Deco style clock.

In 1995, Hastings District Council installed copper plaques on the Hastings clock tower that are engraved with the names of those who lost their lives in the Hastings district - 93 people were identified. It also includes a number who were unable to be identified.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said Monday’s service was a chance to come together to remember those people and their families and reflect on the impact the earthquake had on the region as a whole.

“It’s also a reminder of the importance of preparation for disasters.”


Photo: A glimpse into the aftermath of the earthquake in Hastings.

31 January 2020

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