Lessons learnt from 2011 Christchurch earthquakes

Analysis and assessment of bridges

  • Alessandro Palermo University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8259-9050
  • Liam Wotherspoon University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  • John Wood John Wood Consulting, Lower Hutt, NZ
  • Howard Chapman New Zealand Transport Agency, Wellington, NZ
  • Allan Scott University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Lucas Hogan University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5151-1378
  • Anton Kivell University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Elena Camnasio Technical University of Milan, Milan, Italy
  • Mark Yashinsky CALTRANS, Sacramento, US
  • Michel Bruneau University at Buffalo, Buffalo, US
  • Nawawi Chouw University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6584-822X


On 22 February 2011 the Mw6.2 Christchurch earthquake occurred with an epicentre less than 10 km from the Christchurch Central Business District (CBD) on an unknown buried fault at the edge of the city. The majority of damage was a result of lateral spreading along the Avon and Heathcote Rivers, with few bridges damaged due to ground shaking only. The most significant damage was to bridges along the Avon River, coinciding with the areas of the most severe liquefaction, with less severe liquefaction damage developing along the Heathcote River. Most affected were bridge approaches, abutments and piers, with a range of damage levels identified across the bridge stock. In the days following the earthquake, teams from various organizations performed inspections on over 800 bridges throughout the affected Canterbury region. This paper details the preliminary findings based on visual inspections and some preliminary analyses of highway and road bridges. The paper comprises information supplied by consulting engineering firms which were also directly involved in the inspections soon after the earthquake.


Chapman, H.E., Lauder, M.K., Wood, J.H. (2005) “Seismic assessment and retrofitting of New Zealand state highway Bridges”. Proc. of the New Zealand Society Earthquake Engineering Conference (NZEES), March, 11-13, 2005, Wairakei (New Zealand), CD-ROM.

Chouw, N. (1995) “Effect of the earthquake on 17th of January 1995 on Kobe”. D-A-CH meeting of the German, Austrian and Swiss Society for Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics, University of Graz, Austria, 135-169.

GNS Science (2011) Geonet http://www.geonet.org.nz (Accessed August 12, 2011)

NZTA (2003) Bridge Manual, Second Edition, Including Amendments to December 2004. New Zealand Transport Agency, Wellington.

Palermo, A., Wotherspoon, L.M., Hogan, L., Le Heux, M., Camnasio, E. (2011) “Seismic Performance of Concrete Bridges during Canterbury Earthquakes”. Structural Concrete (accepted). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1061/9780784412367.096

Standards New Zealand (2004) NZS 1170.5:2004. Structural Design Actions. Part 5: Earthquake actions. Standards New Zealand, Wellington.

Wood, J.H., Chapman, H.E., Brabhaharan, P. (2011) Performance of Highway Structures During the Darfield and Christchurch Earthquakes. Report to New Zealand Transport Agency. (In preparation).

How to Cite
Palermo, A., Wotherspoon, L., Wood, J., Chapman, H., Scott, A., Hogan, L., Kivell, A., Camnasio, E., Yashinsky, M., Bruneau, M., & Chouw, N. (2011). Lessons learnt from 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 44(4), 319-333. https://doi.org/10.5459/bnzsee.44.4.319-333

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