New Zealand earthquake: Q&A with Timothy W. Manning of FEMA

The search for survivors is on as buildings crumble after 6.3-magnitude earthquake hits at the height of a busy workday in Christchurch.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 24, 2011

The White House is deploying disaster-response and urban-search-and-rescue teams to New Zealand following a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that rocked the country Tuesday.

They will be greeted there by Timothy W. Manning, a deputy administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency who is in the country assisting with response efforts and is particularly qualified to do so.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time: Manning is a trained geologist, paramedic and firefighter - the perfect combination for earthquake response. He is in New Zealand as part of a U.S. delegation visiting for trade and global security talks and for a review of the country's cleanup efforts after a 7.0-magnitude quake in September.

Workers in Christchurch, New Zealand's second-largest city, continued Wednesday to sift through rubble for survivors, but officials said hopes had dimmed that those buried would be found alive. The official death toll remained at 75, with scores missing.

Manning spoke Wednesday morning from Christchurch and said that he was about to board an airplane when the quake struck. The transcript of our telephone conversation follows, edited for space:

What did you do right after the quake?

Manning: A number of New Zealand police officers asked for any doctors, paramedics or people who could assist. We joined up with a group of construction workers [at the airport] and commandeered a shuttle bus and worked our way into town and went block by block, searching for survivors. . . . Now I'm working in support - as FEMA always is, in international assistance situations - in support of USAID and the State Department. I'm at the city operation center to assist and provide any assistance to Americans who may need help.

In that block-by-block search, did you guys find anyone needing assistance?

We did not find anybody that needed rescue. Some of our people peeled off and worked with other responders who were rescuing people in some of the buildings we came across.

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