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Remembering the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake

HB Earthquake

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 on February 3.

 Every year on this date, the community is invited to gather at the clock tower in the Hastings City Centre Mall to remember a day that changed the lives of those in Hastings and the wider Hawke’s Bay.

It is also a chance to celebrate the city we have today and the community around us.

At 10.47am the clock tower bells will ring to mark the exact moment the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck 88 years ago, taking 256 lives.

A technical report written by Ted Scott, an engineer from outside the district who was dispatched to Hastings to help with aftermath, described the event as a “calamity”, a “nerve shattering catastrophe”.

Written two months afterwards, Mr Scott described the moments after the earthquake struck in Hastings: “The air was full of cries, motor car horns beneath the debris were blaring out, fires started in several places and the earth was still shaking.

“Amid the ruins and wreckage and in a dense pall of dust and smoke men moved, some to retrieve papers and documents of their businesses left in their first rush, to try and secure strong room doors, others helping in the work of mercy - firemen getting their engines and hose from the damaged station and quelling fires, while the men of the power house staff re-entered the shaking building and started up the standby diesel engines, and had the water supply pumps going within an hour and a half of the first shake.”

In the ensuing weeks and months life slowly returned to normal and rebuilding happened, including the reconstruction of the Hastings town clock.

Reports of the day said that in Hastings more than 100 residents were killed and more than 2500 people required urgent medical help.

Ahead of this year’s commemoration Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the annual event was a fitting way to remember the enormity of the event and to reflect on how far the city had come since that time.

“This day gives us a chance to come together as a community and reflect on what our people must have been through during and after this catastrophe – the loss of life, the injuries and then the rebuilding.”

The service starts at 10.30am with the clock tower bells ringing at 10.47am, after which wreaths will be laid at the clock tower, followed by a prayer and readings.

30 January 2019

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