Christchurch law firms are recovering after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the New Zealand city Tuesday lunchtime, the second major quake in six months.
Buddle Findlay Christchurch partner John Buchan has told ALB that the initial reaction of staff at the firm was that it was just another aftershock. “Because we had been having lots of aftershocks since the September 4 quake, we thought it was just another one. But as it continued we realised it was more than an aftershock,” he said.
The firm quickly evacuated staff out of their offices in the Clarendon Tower, but an internal stairwell collapse slowed down the evacuation for some of the staff on the 13th floor. “We are still refurbishing the 12th floor following the September quake, so half the staff were on the sixth floor in temporary premises, but the ones on the 13th floor were initially stuck. Quite a horrific and frightening experience,” said Buchan. Duncan Cotterill is also based in the tower on ninth level. One of Buddle Findlay’s lawyers was trapped in a collapsed building until late last night, but has emerged without major injuries. The staff member had been on secondment at a client’s office.
Buchan said that the major priorities for the firm would be to assist staff and families and then look for temporary premises. “It’s likely to be some time, if at all, before we return to our offices. Last time we set up temporary offices at partners’ homes and other locations, but this time we will need to look for more long term temporary premises,” said Buchan. The firm might also look to send staff to other offices in New Zealand.
The firm’s internal communications are being handled by the Auckland office while the Christchurch is one is off-line. Buchan said staff were in contact via mobile phones and email, but some staff were without power at their homes.
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