Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall spent Friday – the last day of their Royal Tour of New Zealand – in Christchurch, meeting those affected by the devastating earthquake that killed over 180 people in February 2011.
From the Prince of Wales official website: "Many had been crushed, one woman by a six tonne beam, some were in wheelchairs, and some had had limbs amputated. Afterwards The Prince and The Duchess drove around the red zone with the Prime Minister John Key, to receive a briefing on the worst damaged area of the city. They then visited the Cashell Mall where freight containers have been painted in bright colours and transformed into independent shops.
“Music thronged the city with bands playing 1940s swing jazz music. Their Royal Highnesses showed their lighter side when they took to the dance floor in Christchurch today.
“The dancefloor is a pop-up facility called Dance-O-Mat, created by the charitable trust Gap Filler, which has coin operated lighting and sound courtesy of a washing machine that plays tunes from an mp3 player.
“For almost two years the organisation has been finding creative uses for open spaces left following the earthquake that struck Christchurch in September 2010 and the second deadly quake in February 2011 that claimed more than 180 lives.
“The royal couple’s twirl on the dancefloor came after they visited a shopping area of Christchurch city centre to see how retailers and independent business forced out of their premises by the earthquake have set up home in renovated cargo ship containers. The Re:Start project has seen the large metal boxes brightly painted, fitted with doors and windows and stacked up to create temporary retails spaces.
“Shoppers crowed round as Their Royal Highnesses walked along Cashel Street meeting retailers in their new homes. A reminder of the earthquake loomed nearby – a large building being torn down by mechanical equipment. Survivors of the natural disaster had earlier told The Prince and The Duchess their harrowing stories during a reception at Christchurch City Council offices.
“Their Royal Highnesses privately met around 20 people who had been badly injured when buildings collapsed during the 6.3 magnitude earthquake which struck at 12.51pm on February 22, last year. Widespread damage resulted especially in central Christchurch and its eastern suburbs as the quake’s epicentre was close to the middle of the city and buildings had been weakened by the 2010 quake.
“More than half the people killed were in the six-storey Canterbury Television Building, which collapsed and caught fire.”
Bev Edwards, a survivor of the quake who is now a paraplegic, explained what the Royal visit meant to those injured in the quake: “It’s incredibly important The Prince came to meet us, we’re not people that died we’re here, but there hasn’t been a lot of recognition for the seriously injured.”