News – UK – Christchurch quake hero 10 years later: “All I can remember is a damn loud noise”


George Piper spent hours searching the collapsed press building trying to rescue colleagues after Christchurch was hit by a massive earthquake, but says he just did it what anyone would do, “LEE KENNY reports

“I can only remember one damn loud noise,” says George Piper of the moment the earthquake erupted in February 2011

In the hours that followed, he searched the damaged building for survivors, helped free fellow prisoners and undoubtedly saved lives

Piper joined The Press in 1984 as a maintenance coordinator February 2011 was “just a normal day,” he says

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Staff were planning to move to the newly built press house next door on Gloucester Street, and Piper completed the logistics for moving boxes and furniture to the new location

When the trembling subsided, he left the building through the roller door and stepped into the press Ln

He looked up to see that the parapets at the edge of the roof had collapsed, but notably, none of them were hit

The Press Building was completed in 1909 on the corner of Worcester Street and was one of the earliest reinforced concrete buildings in Christchurch

As the company’s head warden, it was Piper’s job to go through each floor and assess the situation

He was also a volunteer with the Little River Fire Brigade and his experience dealing with emergency situations was invaluable

The concrete roof was twisted and collapsed The stairwells were full of fallen debris

On the roof, Piper could hear the voices of people trapped in the cafeteria

Upon closer inspection, Piper saw exposed wires, so the power had to be cut before the firefighters could safely release the injured

After the building was evacuated, Piper did a full walk-through to make sure no one stayed inside

“The guards on every floor did a hell of a job so we couldn’t find anyone”

With his knowledge of the building, he was able to help rescue teams to locate people based on their seat

“She was pregnant at the time, so she was in a very desperate state when they got through to her,” says Piper

When the roof collapsed, Powers was in a small area supported by steel girders

“Everything was compressed to 700 mm, the depth of the bars went across It was only the rays that prevented the descent”

Adrienne Lindsay – known as Ady – worked as an accountant. The 54-year-old died when the roof collapsed while hiding under her desk on the top floor

More debris fell when a second shake occurred around 2pm, slowing down the search for other people still trapped in the building

Piper is often asked if he was scared when he searched the damaged building but says, “the adrenaline is taking over”

“When you hear voices, you are there I think it’s human, everyone would do the same”

He stayed there until midnight, assisted the police with further searches, and then went to Addington in the rain to meet his son

He says he found it pretty tough in the days that followed, but received support from the Fire Department and Federated Farmers, of which he is one

The couple split firewood and talked about the things they had seen in town that day

“We did that until Smoko and my wife brought us a cup of tea. We talked for two or three hours

In 2012, he was one of 140 people to receive a valor award, but he humbly says others deserved the award more

A decade after the earthquake, he has sympathy for people with unresolved earthquake insurance claims

“The worst thing is how it goes on for so long. Many people still don’t have a home

CTV building, earthquake in Christchurch 2011, earthquake, New Zealand

News – GB – Earthquake hero in Christchurch 10 years later: “I can only remember one hell of a racket”