Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Quake in New Zealand kills at least 65

Feb. 22,2011

New Zealand\'s prime minister says his country may be facing its \"darkest day,\" after a powerful earthquake struck Christchurch at the height of the workday. At least 65 people are reported dead and another 100 still trapped in the rubble.

The 6.3 magnitude quake struck the city just before 1 p.m. local time on Tuesday, followed in the next two hours by a pair of large after shocks, one magnitude 5.6 and the other 5.5.

\"It is just a scene of utter devastation,\" Prime Minister John Key told reporters after surveying the damaged city. \"We may well be witnessing New Zealand\'s darkest day.\"

The mayor of Christchurch Bob Parker has declared a state of emergency and ordered the city centre evacuated as emergency crews, including the military and teams of sniffer dogs, race to locate and rescue those trapped in buildings collapsed by the quake.

\"The government is willing to throw everything it can in the rescue effort,\" Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said. \"Time is going to be of essence.\"

In the hours following the quake, the airport was closed and Christchurch Hospital was temporarily closed.

With power and telephone lines knocked out, fires dotting the city, and burst water pipes flooding the streets, people were using their hands to try and free anyone trapped under debris.

\"It was horrific. People were covered in rubble, covered in several tons of concrete,\" web designer Nathanael Boehm, who was on the street when the temblor began, told the Associated Press.

In addition to the city\'s well-known stone cathedral, at least eight or nine buildings collapsed in the tremors, leaving survivors stuck inside their toppled remains to try and connect with rescuers, loved ones and media with cellular telephones.

\"We watched the cathedral collapse out our window while we were holding onto the walls,\" Gary Moore told the AP in a call from the twelfth floor office where he and 19 colleagues were trapped after their stairwell collapsed in the quake.

\"Every aftershock sends us rushing under the desks. It\'s very unnerving but we can clearly see there are other priorities out the window. There has been a lot of damage and I guess people are attending to that before they come and get us.\"

Christchurch is New Zealand\'s second largest city, with a population of about 370,000 people.

Reports suggest two towns outside of the city and closer to the quake\'s epicenter -- Lyttelton and New Brighton -- were also heavily damaged.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Tuesday\'s quake was centred just 5 kilometres south of Christchurch -- much closer than the magnitude 7.1 quake that shook the area early one weekend morning last September. While that caused approximately US$3 billion in damage, no one was killed.

\"The critical issue with this earthquake was that the epicentre was at shallow depth under Christchurch, so many people were within 10 to 20 kilometres of the fault rupture,\" Melbourne University seismologist Gary Gibson told the AP.

\"It\'s incredibly rare for a big earthquake to be so shallow,\" WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan told CTV\'s Canada AM. \"So this was far more violent and didn\'t have the same rocking and rumbling effect ... it came without warning.\"

Experts say the latest temblor, as well as a damaging aftershock in December, are part of an \"aftershock sequence\" following the earthquake five months ago.

News From: http://www.7StarNews.com

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