on Sept. 9, 2010
Devotees carry the murti form of Srila Prabhupada to safety after the earthquake.
At 4:35am on September 4th, it seemed like just another peaceful mangala arati ceremony for the devotees at ISKCON’s temple on 83 Bealy Avenue in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Then, just as the priest was offering water in a conch to the Deities of Nitai Gaurachandra, and the service was about to end, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck.
Cracks appeared in the temple’s walls, the water pipes burst and began leaking throughout the building, and windows shattered. Items not bolted down were scattered everywhere. The priest held onto Nitai Gaurachandra’s feet and began praying loudly.
After the initial shock, the priest and other devotees sized up the situation. Since it looked as if the altar might collapse, they carried Nitai Gaurachandra and the murti form of Srila Prabhupada out onto the lawn.
As aftershocks continued to rock the area, the Deities remained safely outside for several hours, before being carried back in and placed on the altar at around 11:55am. No devotees were hurt in the incident.
The earthquake, which hit 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Christchurch, shook a wide area. Many buildings were badly damaged, and power was severed, although about 90% of the electricity in Christchurch had been restored by six o’clock in the evening.
A state of emergency was declared, the central business district closed and the damages were reported to be in the realm of 2 billion New Zealand dollars.
Only two residents of the city were seriously injured. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, however, said that some of the buildings affected by the quake would have to be destroyed.
He also said that it was miraculous that no one was killed. Had the quake occurred at a difference time of day, fatalities would have been certain.
Due to some flooding and structural damage, the Christcurch ISKCON temple will be closed to the general public until further notice.