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UCSB Professor & Wife Safe in Christchurch Earthquake


UCSB biology professor Robert Warner and his wife Isabel Downs presently in Christchurch, New Zealand on an Erskine Fellowship to teach at Canterbury University write that they are safe after the recent 6.3 magnitude earthquake after a harrowing experience. Neighboring buildings rolled and bounced, bricks were flying, windows blew out, while in their apartment building, only six blocks from the CBD (Central Business District) where most of the devastation occurred, cabinetry pulled off the walls, heavy furniture toppled over strewing more than an inch of broken glass and china over the floors. The intensity of the quake was magnified by the shallowness of the epicenter (5km or 3 miles), located only a few kilometers away from the CBD across the Banks Peninsula at Lytellton. There is electricity but no water or sewage in their neighborhood. Army tanks and police are stationed at all street corners in their neighborhood which is in the cordoned off area. Already greatly impressed with the extraordinary friendliness and generosity of New Zealanders after traveling in the country for a month, they were awestruck by the Kiwis’ deeply caring nature in the face of a terrifying situation. Folks circulated making sure that all in the neighborhood were accounted for at all times. Information about the availability of emergency services as well as food and water has been freely shared. The Warners comment that they wish that they had met the neighbors under different circumstances. The university will be closed for at least two weeks. The Warners are weighing the decision to return to Santa Barbara or stay on.

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