Christchurch, New Zealand quake memorial attended by Japanese victims' families

A memorial service was held on Wednesday in Christchurch, New Zealand to mark the 12th anniversary of a massive earthquake that hit the city. The families of Japanese victims attended for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The earthquake on February 22, 2011 killed 185 people, including 28 Japanese. Many of the Japanese victims were students of an English language school housed in a building that collapsed in the quake.

Attendees of the ceremony offered a silent prayer to the victims at 0:51 p.m., the exact time the quake struck 12 years ago. The names of the victims were then read aloud.

Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger said, "I want to also especially offer a warm welcome to those who have traveled from so far away to be with us here today." He added, "Let us remember the loved ones we have lost. But let us also remember the support we received from near and far that helped us get through."

The attendees offered flowers at the cenotaph where the names of the 185 victims are inscribed.

Christchurch resident Matsunami Keiko, a friend of victim Hirabayashi Yuko from Shiga Prefecture, said time flies, and that she would like to thank Hirabayashi for the happy memories and the lasting support.

Japanese Ambassador to New Zealand Ito Koichi said he hopes that the tragedy will be overcome and that exchanges between young people in Japan and New Zealand will deepen further. He added that that's what he believes the victims had sought.