Christchurch earthquake 'red zone' revealed in incredible new pictures

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It was once home to thousands of families - bustling suburbs where busy parents commuted into the city for work and their children played safely out on the streets.

All that changed on February 22, 2011, when a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, on New Zealand's south island, leaving a terrible trail of destruction.

The natural disaster claimed the lives of 185 people, left an estimated 2,000 with injuries, and destroyed homes and other buildings throughout the country's second largest city.

The impact on the landscape in Christchurch's east was worse than everywhere else.

Thousands of residents were forced to leave permanently, their homes were knocked down and once popular neighbourhoods were turned into modern-day ghost towns.

It became known as the 'Residential Red Zone' but is in fact a vibrant green.

Now, incredible pictures have emerged showing the difference between how these Christchurch suburbs look today and in 2009, two years before the earth opened up.

Avonside as it appears from the air today

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Following the 2001 Christchurch earthquake, thousands of residents in the city's eastern suburbs were forced to leave permanently. Their homes were knocked down and once popular neighbourhoods were turned into modern day ghost towns. It became known as the 'Residential Red Zone' but is in fact a vibrant green. Avonside is pictured in 2009 and again in 2019

Bexley as it was in 2009, two years before the Christchurch earthquake
Bexley as is it appears from the air today

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In the aftermath of the powerful 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the city, several areas such as the suburb of Bexley (pictured) were declared to be uninhabitable. While some locals left the area straight away, it was months and years before others packed up and moved out. About 5,500 property owners eventually accepted Crown offers to buy their properties

Horseshoe Lake as it was in 2009, two years before the Christchurch earthquake
Horseshoe Lake as it appears from the air today

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The natural disaster claimed the lives of 185 people, left an estimated 2,000 with injuries, and destroyed homes and other buildings throughout the country's second largest city. Horseshoe Lake, once one of the trendiest suburbs in the entire city, is today grassland. Horseshoe Lake and other devastated suburbs are just minutes from Christchurch's central business district

Located just minutes from the city centre, these suburbs were built on and around wetlands and given names such as Avonside, Dallington, Bexley and Horseshoe Lake.

When families and professionals first moved into the area there they fell in love with its tidy streets, convenient amenities and sense of community. It was close to city jobs but quiet and peaceful at the end of the week. 

Then just before 1pm on February 22, 2011, many of these residents had their world literally come crashing down around them.

The ground shook for two straight minutes, but the impact has lasted to this day.

Uninhabitable areas were 'red zoned' and those inside its boundaries were known as 'red zoners'. Among them were originally two groups: leavers and stayers. Many of the stayers were uninsured.

While some locals left the area straight away, it was months and years before others packed up and moved out. 

About 5,500 property owners eventually accepted Crown offers to buy their properties.

Stuff.co.nz reports that before the earthquake there were more than 10,000 residents in these eastern Christchurch suburbs, while by 2013 that number had dwindled to just 1,300. 

An up-close look at one of the streets within the 'Red Zone' at Dallington which was once lined with homes but today is an overgrown wasteland. The earthquake caused widespread 'liquefaction', in which saturated soil loses its strength and stiffness and behaves more like a liquid than a solid. Structures sank as the ground split beneath its residents' feet

An up-close look at one of the streets within the 'Red Zone' at Dallington which was once lined with homes but today is an overgrown wasteland. The earthquake caused widespread 'liquefaction', in which saturated soil loses its strength and stiffness and behaves more like a liquid than a solid. Structures sank as the ground split beneath its residents' feet 

This image shows the same Dallington street pictured above as it appeared before the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake.  The neat brick houses, manicured gardens and well-maintained road system are all gone. In their place are vacant blocks, fields of grass and flooded streets. Joggers and dog walkers do not have to compete with cars

This image shows the same Dallington street pictured above as it appeared before the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake.  The neat brick houses, manicured gardens and well-maintained road system are all gone. In their place are vacant blocks, fields of grass and flooded streets. Joggers and dog walkers do not have to compete with cars

Today there are fewer than 100 who still call the place home. 

The earthquake caused widespread 'liquefaction', in which saturated soil loses its strength and stiffness and behaves more like a liquid than a solid. Structures sank as the ground split.

Gone are the neat brick houses, manicured gardens and well-maintained road system and and in their place

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