WELLINGTON – New Zealand lowered its flags on Monday and made special note of those who couldn't travel as it marked the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake that killed 185 people.
Hundreds of people attended an outdoor service in Christchurch, which continues to rebuild from the magnitude 6.3 quake that destroyed much of its downtown. A separate service was also held in the northern Japanese city of Toyama, home to 12 students who died in the quake.
Speaking at the Christchurch ceremony, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was important to remember that 87 of the victims were foreigners and many of their families couldn't be there because of coronavirus travel restrictions.
“Our flags fly at half-mast for them today too,” she said.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel talked about the 28 Japanese citizens who died, the largest number of victims from any country outside of New Zealand.
“I especially wanted to mention all the Japanese family members who I last year met in Japan and who so wanted to be here,” she said. "We are forever connected by this tragedy and we do not forget you even when we are apart. You are with us in spirit.”
Another person who spoke at the Christchurch service was Maan Alkaisi, a university professor who has spent years trying to get authorities to press criminal charges against those who designed the CTV building which collapsed during the quake, killing 115 people including his wife, Maysoon Abbas.
A review after the quake found the building's design was flawed and it should never have been approved.