Events In History
22 February 2011Christchurch earthquake kills 185
On Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12.51 p.m. Christchurch was badly damaged by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake, which killed 185 people and injured several thousand. Read more...
4 September 2010Magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocks Canterbury
The earthquake struck at 4.35 a.m. on Saturday 4 September and was felt by many people in the South Island and the southern North Island. There was considerable damage in central Canterbury, especially in Christchurch, but no loss of life. Read more...
28 November 2008Air New Zealand A320 crashes in France
An Air NZ Airbus A320 crashed off the coast of France. All seven people on board, including five New Zealanders, were killed. It was 29 years to the day since Air NZ Flight TE901 had crashed in Antarctica, killing all 257 on board Read more...
15 April 2008Mangatepopo canyoning disaster
Six students and one teacher from Elim College died in a flash flood while canyoning in the Mangatepopo Stream, Tongariro National Park. Read more...
7 March 1988Cyclone Bola strikes
Cyclone Bola, one of the most damaging cyclones to hit New Zealand, struck Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne–East Cape in March 1988 Read more...
26 January 1984Floods devastate Southland
A record one-day total of 84.8 mm of rain had by 9 p.m. caused extensive surface flooding in the streets of Invercargill, Riverton, Ōtautau, Tūātapere and Bluff. Read more...
28 November 1979257 killed in Mt Erebus disaster
Flight TE901, an Air New Zealand sightseeing flight over Antarctica, crashed into the lower slopes of Mt Erebus, near Scott Base, killing all 257 passengers and crew on board. Read more...
25 May 1968Three die in Īnangahua earthquake
A magnitude 7.1 earthquake centred near Īnangahua Junction, 40 km east of Westport, struck at 5.24 a.m., shaking many people from their beds. Read more...
10 April 1968Sinking of the Wahine
The ferry Wahine, en route from Lyttelton with 734 passengers and crew on board, struck Barrett Reef at the entrance to Wellington Harbour during a ferocious storm. Fifty-two lives were lost. Read more...
19 January 196719 killed in Strongman mine explosion at Rūnanga
Nineteen men were killed when an explosion ripped through the Strongman coal mine at Rūnanga. An investigation concluded that safety regulations had not been followed and that a shot hole for a charge had been incorrectly fired. Read more...
3 July 1963DC-3 crashes in Kaimai Range
All 23 passengers and crew were killed in what is still New Zealand's worst internal civil aviation accident. Helicopters were used for the first time in the search and rescue operation that followed. Read more...
24 November 1959Fifteen die in mysterious shipwreck
All hands were lost when the modern coastal freighter Holmglen foundered off the South Canterbury coast. The cause of the tragedy was never established Read more...
24 December 1953Tangiwai railway disaster
The worst railway disaster in New Zealand's history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington-Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River at Tangiwai. Of the 285 people on board, 151 were killed. Read more...
15 August 1951Troop ship Wahine wrecked en route to Korean War
Carrying New Zealand troops to the Korean War, the 38-year-old Lyttelton–Wellington ferry Wahine ran aground in the Arafura Sea. There were no casualties but the ship became a total loss. Read more...
23 January 1951Disastrous centennial yacht race begins
Twenty yachts left Wellington bound for Lyttelton in a race to celebrate Canterbury's centenary. Following a severe southerly storm only one yacht officially finished the race. Two others were lost along with their 10 crew members Read more...
23 October 1948Mt Ruapehu air crash kills 13
The Lockheed Electra airliner ZK-AGK Kaka went missing in poor weather on a flight from Palmerston North to Hamilton. Searchers did not reach the wreckage until a week later. Read more...
25 August 1948Killer twister hits Frankton
Three people were killed and about 150 houses and buildings damaged by New Zealand's deadliest recorded tornado. Damage was estimated at more than £1 million. Read more...
23 November 1947Civic funeral for 41 Ballantyne's fire victims
On 18 November 1947 Ballantyne's, a Christchurch department store ;that was a local institution, was razed by one of the worst fires in New Zealand's history. The bodies of the 41 victims were buried at Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Bromley, after a civic funeral. Read more...
6 February 1947Liner Wanganella refloated after 18 days on Barrett Reef
The liner, carrying 400 passengers, struck Barrett Reef in Wellington Harbour on 19 January. Only an unusually long spell of fine weather - dubbed 'Wanganella weather' by locals - saved it from becoming a total wreck. Read more...
20 June 1943US Navy tragedy at Paekākāriki
Ten United States Navy personnel were drowned off the Paekākāriki coast near Wellington during a beach landing exercise. Read more...
4 June 1943Rail tragedy at Hyde
The Cromwell-Dunedin express, travelling at speed, derailed at Hyde, killing 21 people and injuring 47. The driver was later found guilty of manslaughter. Read more...
24 April 1941Sinking of the Hellas
Disaster struck during the evacuation of Allied forces from Greece when a large number of civilians and Commonwealth troops, including New Zealanders, were killed while they were boarding the Greek yacht Hellas at the port of Piraeus, near Athens. Read more...
19 February 193821 drown in Kopuawhara flash flood
A sudden cloudburst sent a 5-m wall of water surging through a railway construction camp in the Kopuawhara Valley, near Māhia, drowning 21 people. Read more...
4 May 1937Avalanche kills two workers at the Homer tunnel
D.P. Hulse and T.W. Smith were both killed when the second avalanche to hit the Homer tunnel project in less than 12 months struck without warning. Read more...
8 February 1931First fatalities on a scheduled air service in NZ
All three people on board a Dominion Airlines Desoutter were killed in a crash near Wairoa. The airline had helped maintain contact between the areas ravaged by the recent Hawke's Bay earthquake and the rest of New Zealand. Read more...
3 February 1931Hawke's Bay earthquake strikes
New Zealand's deadliest earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, destroyed much of central Napier and Hastings and killed more than 250 people. Read more...
6 July 1923Main trunk express train disaster
Early hours in the morning the express crashed into a landslip at Ōngarue in the King Country. Seventeen people were killed, the first major loss of life on New Zealand railways. Read more...
24 September 1917Bere Ferrers rail accident
Ten New Zealand soldiers were killed when they were hit by a train at Bere Ferrers in the United Kingdom. The accident occurred as troops from the 28th Reinforcements, NZEF, were being transported from Plymouth to Sling Camp on Salisbury Plain. Read more...
12 September 1914Forty-three miners killed in explosion at Huntly
At 7.20 am an explosion at Ralph's mine on Raynor Road rocked Huntly. It was caused by a miner's naked acetylene cap-lamp igniting firedamp (methane gas given off by coal) Read more...
10 September 1914Eruption on White Island kills 10 people
On 10 September 1914 ten miners working on White Island were killed when part of the crater wall collapsed, causing a landslide Read more...
16 April 1912News of Titanic sinking reaches NZ
Although no New Zealanders were aboard the world’s largest passenger ship when it sank in the chilly North Atlantic with appalling loss of life due to a lack of lifeboats, the country followed the news closely. Read more...
12 February 1909SS Penguin wrecked in Cook Strait
The Picton-Wellington ferry SS Penguin struck rocks in Cook Strait and sank in heavy seas off a rugged, isolated coast. Only 30 of the 102 people on board survived. Read more...
26 March 1896Brunner mine disaster kills 65
Killed by blast and gas, the victims were almost half of Brunner's underground workforce. It is still the worst industrial accident in New Zealand history. Read more...
29 October 1894SS Wairarapa wrecked on Great Barrier Island
Only weeks earlier the glamorous steamer had set a record time for the Tasman crossing from Sydney to Auckland. A court of enquiry blamed the captain for the disaster, which cost 121 lives. Read more...
10 June 1886Eruption of Mt Tarawera
The eruption lasted six hours and caused massive destruction. Several villages were destroyed, along with most of the famous silica hot springs known as the Pink and White Terraces. Around 120 people, nearly all Māori, lost their lives Read more...
29 April 1881131 perish in worst civilian shipwreck in NZ waters
The steamer Tararua, en route from Port Chalmers to Melbourne, struck a reef at Waipapa Point, Southland. Of the 151 passengers and crew on board, 131 were lost, including 12 women and 14 children. Read more...
11 September 1880Rail tragedy on the Rimutaka Incline
Four children were killed and 13 adults injured when two rail carriages were blown off the tracks by severe winds on a notoriously exposed part of the Rimutaka Incline railway. This was the first major loss of life on New Zealand’s railways. Read more...
21 February 1879Kaitangata mining disaster
An underground explosion at Kaitangata, South Otago, killed 34 coal miners. The accident led to stricter controls on mining. Read more...
18 November 1874Cospatrick fire kills 470
En route to Auckland laden with immigrants, the Cospatrick caught fire off the Cape of Good Hope. The tragedy has been described as New Zealand's worst civil disaster. Read more...
3 February 1868Killer storm sweeps the country
A cyclone swept south across the country from Saturday 1st. By the time it moved away on Tuesday 4th, more than 40 people had been killed. Read more...
14 May 1866Wreck of the General Grant
Sailing from Melbourne to London, the General Grant hit cliffs on the west coast of the main island in the subantarctic Auckland Islands. Fifteen of the 83 people on board survived the sinking, but only 10 of them were ultimately rescued 18 months later. Read more...
20 May 1865Loss of the City of Dunedin with all hands
The paddle steamer City of Dunedin left Wellington at around 5 p.m. on Saturday 20 May. It was never heard from again and no trace was ever found of its 25 crew and at least 22 passengers. Read more...
7 February 1863Sinking of HMS Orpheus - NZ's worst shipwreck
The Royal Navy steam corvette HMS Orpheus was wrecked on the treacherous Manukau Harbour bar. Of the 259 men on board, 189 lost their lives in New Zealand's worst maritime disaster. Read more...
23 January 1855Massive earthquake hits Wellington region
A magnitude 8.2 earthquake lifted the southern end of the Rimutaka Range by 6 m. Land raised from the harbour now forms part of Wellington's CBD. Read more...
23 July 1851The Maria wrecked near Cape Terawhiti
Twenty-six lives were lost when the barque Maria was wrecked near Cape Terawhiti. This provided more ammunition for Wellington settlers who were trying to convince the government of the need for a lighthouse. Read more...
7 May 1846Devastating landslide at Lake Taupō
The Ngāti Tūwharetoa village of Te Rapa on the south-western shore of Lake Taupō was obliterated in this landslide. Sixty people were killed, including the paramount chief Mananui, Te Heuheu Tūkino II Read more...
31 August 1841The wreck of the Sophia Pate
The fate of the brig Sophia Pate, wrecked on a sandbar at the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour with the loss of 21 lives, highlighted the dangers early migrants to New Zealand faced in poorly charted coastal waters. Read more...
Page 1 – Police response to disaster
Police have always been at the heart of disaster rescue efforts because of their nation-wide 24-hour presence and communications network
- Page 1 - Police response to disasterHow police responded to the disasters, particularly Tangiwai, Wahine and Erebus
Page 1 – New Zealand disasters timeline
The disasters timeline and map give an overview of New Zealand's worst natural disasters, transport accidents, fires, mining accidents and other tragedies that have caused
- Page 1 - New Zealand disasters timelineThe disasters timeline and map give an overview of New Zealand's worst natural disasters, transport accidents, fires, mining accidents and other tragedies that have caused major
Page 1 – The Wahine disaster
This April marks the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the ferry Wahine. With more than 50 lives lost, this was New Zealand's worst modern maritime disaster. The Wahine’
Page 2 – Timeline to tragedy
The events that led to the drowning of 51 people in the Wahine disaster of 10 April 1968
Page 3 – Co-ordinating the rescue
The police, emergency services and civilians rescued passengers and crew from the inter-island ferry Wahine in Wellington Harbour in April 1968.
Page 4 – Court of inquiry
The court of inquiry that met 10 weeks after the sinking pinpointed the build-up of water in the vehicle deck as the reason the ferry finally capsized.
Page 1 – Erebus disaster
On 28 November 1979, 237 passengers and 20 crew were killed when Air New Zealand Flight TE901 crashed into the side of Mt Erebus, Antarctica. The tragedy was followed by a
Page 2 – Tourist flights to Antarctica
Air New Zealand and Qantas began offering sightseeing flight over the Antarctic in February 1977.
Page 3 – Timeline to disaster
The Erebus disaster was mainly caused by an unfortunate, late change in flight path and the white-out conditions in Antarctica.
Page 5 – Operation Overdue
A team of New Zealand Police officers and a Mountain Face Rescue Team were immediately dispatched to the scene of the Erebus disaster.
Page 6 – Finding the cause
With the death of so many people, it is not surprising that the investigations into the tragedy became a source of great debate and controversy.
Page 1 – Tangiwai railway disaster
New Zealand's worst railway disaster occurred 60 years ago on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the swollen Whangaehu River near
Page 2 – Wrong place at the wrong time
The unfortunate sequence of events that led to the Tangiwai disaster
Page 3 – Search and rescue
How locals and police responded to New Zealand's worst railway disaster
Page 4 – Dealing with the dead
Identifying victims is a major task following any mass tragedy. A number of circumstances made this process particularly difficult at Tangiwai.
Page 5 – Death at Tangiwai: a class affair
Survival at Tangiwai depended on which class of carriage you were travelling in.
Page 4 – Determining the cause
Social studies ideas and activities exploring the causes of NZ disasters
- Page 4 - Determining the causeSocial studies ideas and activities exploring the causes of NZ
Page 3 – Triumph and tragedy
There is a New Zealand connection to a number of triumphs and tragedies that have occurred in Antarctica.
- Page 3 - Triumph and tragedyThere is a New Zealand connection to a number of triumphs and tragedies that have occurred in Antarctica.
Page 8 – Disasters
Fires and earthquakes have been major threats to New Zealand's Parliament Buildings.
- Page 8 - DisastersFires and earthquakes have been major threats to New Zealand's Parliament
Page 9 – 1966 - key events
A selection of the key events in New Zealand history from 1966
Page 10 – 1967 - key events
A selection of the key events in New Zealand history from 1967
Page 11 – 1968 - key events
A selection of the key events in New Zealand history from 1968
Page 7 – The wreck of the Rena in historical context
On 5 October 2011 the MSC-chartered, Liberian-flagged container ship Rena astonished local mariners by grounding on the clearly marked Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty. Some
- Page 7 - The wreck of the Rena in historical contextOn 5 October 2011 the MSC-chartered, Liberian-flagged container ship Rena astonished local mariners by grounding on the clearly marked Astrolabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty. Some
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