New Zealand Earthquake In Christchurch
Christchurch’s 400,000 residents were warned to stay inside their homes as a major earthquake rattled the town.
The earthquake measured 7.1 and the danger of continued aftershocks continue. In an effort to keep the peace and ensure public safety, the authorities have instituted a curfew.
Police said the curfew was intended to protect the city’s 400,000 people from falling debris, as the quake caused widespread damage to buildings, although there were few injuries reported.
City mayor Bob Parker declared a state of emergency four hours after the quake struck the east coast of the island region at 4.35am, warning that continuing aftershocks could cause masonry to fall from damaged buildings.
“We’re all feeling scared, we’ve just had some significant aftershocks,” he told TV One News. “Tonight we’re just people in the face of a massive natural disaster, trying to help each other … and we’re grateful we haven’t lost a life.”
There were reports of some people trapped inside damaged buildings, although none appeared to be seriously injured.
Police Inspector Alf Stewart told New Zealand’s National Radio that some people had been arrested for looting. “We have some reports of people smashing [shop] windows and trying to grab some property that is not theirs … we’ve got police on the streets and we’re dealing with that,” he said.
Up to 90 extra police officers are flying to Christchurch to help, and troops are likely to join the recovery effort on Monday.
The prime minister, John Key, who flew to Christchurch to inspect the damage, said it was “an absolute miracle” that no one died in the quake which blocked roads with debris, cut off power across the region and disrupted gas and water supplies.
Key said initial assessments suggested it could cost at least 2bn New Zealand dollars to repair the damage caused by the quake. Civil defence minister John Carter added there was “a lot of damage” to the region’s key infrastructure.
Christchurch Hospital said it had treated two men with serious injuries and a number of people with minor injuries.
One man was hit by a falling chimney and was in a serious condition, while a second was badly cut by glass, a spokeswoman said.
Mark O’Connell said his house was full of smashed glass, with food tossed from shelves and sets of drawers, TVs and computers tipped over.
“We were thrown from wall to wall as we tried to escape down the stairs to get to safety,” he said.
State geological agency GNS Science said the epicentre of the quake was 19 miles west of Christchurch. It reported 29 aftershocks in the 14 hours following the quake, ranging in strength from magnitude 3.7 to 5.4.
Sheep farmer Paul Cowie, from the town of Darfield near the quake’s epicentre, said his family was knocked to the floor.
“We couldn’t stand up, but we had to run across the house to get to the kids … and they were shaken up,” he said. The family fled the house and huddled in a car parked in an open field.
Emergency shelters have been set up at schools in suburban areas to house those forced out of their homes, a civil defence spokesman said.
People in Christchurch’s eastern suburbs were told to be ready to evacuate after electricity, gas, sewage and water systems were cut by the quake.
Residents have been asked not to flush toilets because of potential damage to the city’s sewerage system which could lead to contamination. Christchurch airport was also closed as a precaution while runways were safety checked.
Despite tsunami fears by residents, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said “no destructive widespread tsunami threat existed, based on historical earthquake and tsunami data”.
New Zealand lies above an area of the Earth’s crust where two tectonic plates collide and the country records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year – but only about 150 are usually felt. Schoolchildren in the country regularly undertake earthquake drills.
New Zealand hit by powerful quake By Agencies A strong 7.1 magnitude earthquake has struck New Zealand’s South Island, 30 km west of Christchurch, damaging roads, buildings and severing …
No deaths reported after powerful quake strikes New Zealand (CNN) — Officials declared a state of emergency Saturday after a powerful predawn earthquake struck near Christchurch, New Zealand, sending people into the …
Big quake rattles New Zealand’s south By Ray Lilley AP A building in the center of Christchurch, New Zealand, has lost its outer walls after being shaken by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. …