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“Multiple fatalities” as quake strikes New Zealand’s second city at busy mid-day

Tuesday, February 22nd 2011 - 06:19 UTC
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Cathedral no stranger to quake damage  (Photo: Twitter - @tesswoolcock) Cathedral no stranger to quake damage (Photo: Twitter - @tesswoolcock)

Rescuers dug frantically for bodies and people trapped after a major 6.3 earthquake caused “multiple” deaths in New Zealand's second city of Christchurch Tuesday, crushing buildings and vehicles.

Thousands of panicked and tearful residents thronged the city's streets after the quake struck at lunchtime, just six months after a 7.0-magnitude tremor shattered buildings but did not claim any lives.

Police warned the latest earthquake had left people dead. One office building housing 200 workers had collapsed, while Christchurch Cathedral's spire tumbled. The local hospital had to be evacuated because of structural damage.

Local station TV3 said dead bodies had been pulled from a hostel, and a tourist had been crushed to death in a van. All flights across the country were briefly suspended after Christchurch control tower was damaged.

Declaring a state of emergency, Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said: “Everybody needs to understand that this is going to be a very black day for this severely shaken city.

”I've had reports of buses that are trapped under fallen buildings, car park buildings that have taken significant damage, collapsed or partially collapsed. In some of the inner-city streets we have people trapped in buildings.“

As several strong aftershocks pummelled the stricken city of 340,000, which has endured continuous tremors since September's disaster, bleeding and limping survivors emerged from damaged buildings.

”The details that we have are extremely sketchy. But the worry and fear of course is that this earthquake has taken place at a time when (residents) were going about their business,“ said Prime Minister John Key.

”It is a very populated time with people at work, children at school,“ he warned. ”Sadly I cannot rule out whether there have been fatalities.”

The quake struck at 12:51 pm (2351 GMT Monday), five kilometres from Christchurch at a depth of just four kilometres.

Emergency services said it was more damaging than September's quake, which struck before dawn with most people safely at home.

Cars were buried under rubble and roads buckled as the tremor opened ruptures in the ground. Police feared multiple deaths, including in two buses that were crushed by falling debris.

“Multiple fatalities have been reported at several locations in the central city, including two buses crushed by falling buildings. A doctor and emergency services are attending,” a police statement said.

”Other reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central (city) and persons reported trapped in buildings.”

On September 4, Christchurch suffered the most destructive quake to hit New Zealand in 80 years when a 7.0-magnitude tremor damaged 100,000 homes, leaving a clean-up bill estimated at NZ$4.0 billion dollars (3.0 billion US dollars).

From UK the Foreign Secretary William Hague has made a statement after the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch earlier today and he said: 

“I was shocked and saddened to hear of the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch earlier today killing so many people. The ties that bind the UK with New Zealand are very close and my thoughts are with the friends and families of all those who have lost their lives and been affected by the earthquake.

”Many people in the UK with links to New Zealand will be watching anxiously as the situation develops. Our High Commissioner in New Zealand is on her way to Christchurch and we stand ready to provide any assistance that we can to the authorities and to any British Nationals who have been caught up in the earthquake.”


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  • stillakelper

    Our thoughts are with our brothers and sisters in Christchurch.

    Feb 22nd, 2011 - 11:15 am 0
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