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Pacific New Zealand Earthquake Strikes Christchurch, Killing At Least 65 People


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
See photo slide show at this link http://www.smh.com.au/photogallery/world/earthquake-strikes-christchurch/20110222-1b3a5.html

New Zealand earthquake strikes Christchurch, killing at least 65 people

City hit by 6.3-magnitude quake on busy weekday afternoon, its second major quake in five months

At least 65 people have died and more than 100 are missing after a powerful earthquake struck the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch, collapsing buildings, burying vehicles under debris and sending rescuers scrambling to help people trapped under rubble.

The 6.3-magnitude quake struck the country's second largest city on a busy weekday afternoon.

The mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, has declared a state of emergency and ordered people to evacuate the city centre. "Make no mistake this is going to be a very black day for this shaken city," he said.

Power and water was cut and hundreds of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared throughout Christchurch in the aftermath of the quake, which was centred three miles from the city. The US Geological Survey said the tremor occurred at a depth of 2.5 miles.

After rushing to the city within hours of the quake, the prime minister of New Zealand, John Key, said the death toll was 65, and may rise. "It is just a scene of utter devastation. We may well be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day."

The spire of the city's well-known stone cathedral toppled into a central square, while buildings collapsed in on themselves and streets were strewn with bricks and shattered concrete.

The multi-storey Pyne Gould Guinness Building, housing more than 200 workers, has collapsed with an unknown number of people trapped inside. Television pictures showed rescuers, many of them office workers, dragging severely injured people from the rubble.

Elsewhere, police said debris rained down on two buses, crushing them, while emergency workers were moving to rescue survivors trapped in other partially collapsed buildings across the city.

New Zealand's TV3 said 24 people were trapped on the 17th floor of the 19-storey Forsyth Barr office building, near the cathedral. The building was intact but a stairwell had collapsed, it said.

Christchurch hospital had to deal with many injured residents.

"We've had a lot of people at the emergency department … a significant number, a lot of major injuries," said David Meates, the chief executive of the Canterbury health board.

"They are largely crushes and cuts types of injuries and chest pain as well," he said, adding some of the more seriously injured could be evacuated to other cities, where hospitals have been put on alert and prepared to accept casualties.

All army medical staff have been mobilised, while several hundred troops were helping with the rescue, officials said.

A woman trapped in one of the buildings said she was terrified and waiting for rescuers to reach her six hours after the quake.

"I thought the best place was under the desk but the ceiling collapsed on top. I can't move and I'm just terrified," office worker Anne Voss told TV3 news.

Emergency shelters had been set up in schools and at a racecourse, as night approached.

Helicopters dumped giant buckets of water to try to douse a fire in one tall office building. A crane helped rescue workers trapped in another office block.

"I was in the square right outside the cathedral – the whole front has fallen down and there were people running from there. There were people inside as well," said John Gurr, a camera technician who was in the city centre when the quake hit.

The city's historic cathedral was one of the buildings that took significant damage, while cars were buried under rubble and roads buckled as the tremor opened fissures in the ground.

See video http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/22/new-zealand-earthquake-christchurch
An injured person is carried by rescue workers after an earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand An injured person is carried by rescue workers after an earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand Photograph: David Wethey/AP

"It is huge. We just don't know if there are people under this rubble," a priest standing outside the rubble of the damaged cathedral told Television New Zealand.

Search and rescue teams are working through the night to look for survivors, the civil defence director, John Hamilton, said.

"We have to be prepared to accept that it is going to be a heavy toll," he said, adding that it was unclear how many people were trapped in buildings.

"There could well be people who are stuck in buildings overnight. I can't confirm, but I would expect that's in all probability the case."

All airports and airspace in the country were shut down and all flights into, out of and around the country were put on hold immediately after the earthquake.

Airways NZ, New Zealand's national air traffic control organisation, is based in Christchurch.

Local TV showed bodies being pulled out of rubble strewn around the city centre, though it was unclear whether any of them were alive.

It was the second time in five months that the city has been struck by a major earthquake. Last September's 7.1-magnitude earthquake was 30 miles west of Christchurch. About 100 people were treated at hospital with earthquake-related injuries then.

Christchurch has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks since that earthquake, causing extensive damage and a handful of injuries, but no deaths. New Zealand, which sits between the Pacific and Indo-Australian plates, records on average more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which about 20 would normally top magnitude 5.0.

Christchurch is home to about 350,000 people and is a tourist centre and gateway to the South Island.



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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Christchurch quake was aftershock of 2010 tremor, scientists say

Last September's New Zealand earthquake was more energetic but caused less damage

The earthquake that brought death and destruction to Christchurch on Tuesday was almost certainly an aftershock of a larger tremor that rocked New Zealand on 3 September last year.

But while last year's earthquake was more energetic, it struck in the early hours of the morning, some 48km outside the city. The tremor that hit on Tuesday was more devastating for several reasons: it was shallower, much closer to Christchurch and arrived in the middle of local lunchtime at 12.51pm.

Earthquakes are not rare in New Zealand. The islands are shaken by noticeable tremors on average twice every three days. Seismologists at the US Geological Survey have recorded at least six earthquakes of magnitude five or more since September's magnitude 7 incident.

Tuesday's earthquake was recorded at magnitude 6.3, or roughly 11 times weaker, but it was enough to raze buildings already damaged by the previous earthquake and later aftershocks.

The earthquake was blamed for breaking a 30m-tonne chunk of ice off the Tasman glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook national park in the centre of the south island. The iceberg produced giant waves in the park's terminal lake for half an hour. More aftershocks may yet arrive.

David Rothery at the Open University's volcano dynamics group, said: "The magnitude 6.3 earthquake was a very large aftershock following the 3 September magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Its focus was at a very shallow depth of about 5km, which doubtless contributed to the severity of the ground shaking that witnesses in Christchurch describe as more severe than in September. The rupture was also much closer to the city, and this too made it worse. Other, hopefully smaller, aftershocks are to be expected. These will be a hazard to people trapped in damaged and weakened buildings and their rescuers."

New Zealand has some of the most stringent building regulations, but early reports from government scientists in the country indicate that the levels of shaking in and around Christchurch were greater than buildings are typically built to withstand.

New Zealand is in a region of extraordinary geological activity called the Ring of Fire, which stretches from Indonesia to the coast of Chile. For every 10 earthquakes on the planet, nine are in this region. New Zealand itself straddles the boundary between the Pacific and Australasian tectonic plates, which slowly grind into one another.

On the south island, where Tuesday's earthquake struck, the Pacific and Australasian plates slip past each other horizontally, producing the enormous Alpine fault that runs down the western flank of the island. The tremors may have occurred on "blind faults", which have been inactive for so long, there are no records of their existence.

Dougal Jerram at Durham University said: "Christchurch sits on what is historically a tectonically active area where the Alpine fault runs right across New Zealand's South Island. Associated with this are many fault segments. What seems to have happened is that the pressure has built up on a particular fault segment with the epicentre much closer to the city itself.

"This earthquake has also been particularly shallow, so despite measuring slightly less than the previous major earthquake in Christchurch ... more of the earthquake's energy makes it to the surface causing far greater destruction, than if the quake was deeper underground."



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Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Nearly 400 dead or missing in New Zealand quake

Second earthquake to hit Christchurch in five months

By Chris Foley, Agence France-Presse - February 21, 2011

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - New Zealand rescuers worked frantically through the night Wednesday to reach trapped survivors after a catastrophic earthquake left nearly 400 people dead or missing in Christchurch.

Prime Minister John Key, declaring a national emergency after New Zealand's worst natural disaster in 80 years, said the region around the country's second-largest city had suffered "death and destruction on a dreadful scale".

Rescuers had to amputate limbs from survivors to free them from smouldering ruins of buildings reduced to debris in minutes, while dazed survivors were plucked from the rubble in a desperate overnight rescue mission.

Christchurch resident Tom Brittenden said he saw a woman die with her baby in her arms when she was hit by falling debris in the city's Cashel St Mall. Her baby survived but she was killed instantly.

"We tried to pull these big bricks off (her) . . . she was gone," he told the Christchurch Press.

Rescuers had recovered 75 bodies since the 6.3-magnitude quake struck at lunchtime Tuesday, and about 300 people were still missing, officials said.

The quake was the deadliest to hit New Zealand since 256 people died in a 1931 tremor, and it came six months after a 7.0-magnitude quake weakened buildings in Christchurch but miraculously resulted in no deaths.

The latest tremor toppled many buildings and left central Christchurch strewn with debris. The city's landmark cathedral lost its spire. Dozens of aftershocks rocked the city Tuesday and overnight, hampering rescue efforts.

Police Superintendent Russell Gibson warned that the toll was certain to rise as more than 500 emergency workers combed through shattered buildings, listening out for any signs of life.

"There is incredible carnage right throughout the city," he told Radio New Zealand. "There are bodies littering the streets, they are trapped in cars and crushed under rubble."

Most of the city remained without power and Gibson said rescue crews working through the night had freed 20-30 people, some at desperate cost.

"It's quite amazing, we have some people we've pulled out and they haven't got so much as a scratch on them, we've had other people where we've had to amputate limbs to get them out," he said.

Gibson said rescuers were going door to door through the city centre, with efforts concentrating on two city centre office buildings where survivors had managed to communicate with them.

"We are getting texts and tapping sounds from some of these buildings and that's where the focus is at the moment," he said.

However, fire service national commander Mike Hall said his officers had incorrectly reported that 15 people had been pulled alive from a collapsed six-storey office block.

"I have since been advised that it was a false report and that it is not true," he told TVNZ, while police confirmed that no survivors had yet been recovered from the collapsed Canterbury TV building.

Prime Minister Key, who has described the disaster as possibly "New Zealand's darkest day", said: "No words that can spare our pain. We are witnessing the havoc caused by a violent and ruthless act of nature."

Twenty-four Japanese citizens were among the missing, including 11 foreign-language students, Japanese reports said.

Japan, Australia and the United States were among countries sending rescuers to help.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who is New Zealand's head of state, said she was "utterly shocked" while U.S. President Barack Obama offered his "deepest condolences", as expressions of sympathy poured in from around the globe.

Seismologists said that despite being smaller, the latest tremor was more destructive than the September quake because it was nearer to Christchurch's centre and much closer to the earth's surface.

New Zealand sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire", a vast zone of seismic and volcanic activity stretching from Chile on one side to Japan and Indonesia on the other.

© Copyright (c) AFP

source: http://www.{censored}/news/Nearly+dead+missing+Zealand+quake/4329104/story.html


Aug 17, 2010
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