You have probably seen by now numerous televisual news bulletins about the devastating earthquake (7.1 on the Richter scale) that struck Christchurch, New Zealand, on Saturday, September 4. Miraculously, no lives were lost (a similarly powerful 1931 quake in the New Zealand town of Napier killed 258 people), but Christchurch’s central business district bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a bomb site. Numerous locals – including a former Sydney inhabitant whom I slightly knew – are still dwelling in tents, with no fresh drinking water, no electricity, no heating, and no plumbing.

Unlike lots of nations where disasters occur (Haiti and Pakistan, anyone?), New Zealand is a recognizably Western sort of place, with high standards of public health and an adequately functioning civil society. Thus, not only is it free from any immediate danger of epidemics, but charitable works do have some slight chance of reaching their intended recipients and are unlikely to be intercepted by warlords, mullahs, voudou-spouting witch-doctors, unreconstructed Ethiopian Marxists, etc.

If you would like to donate, this website gives details of how to aid the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Caritas, and so on.