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February 22, 2011

6.3 quake hits Christchurch, NZ

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The ChurchChrist Cathedral was badly damaged by the earthquake.
Image: Arthur Shih.

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand at 12:51 PM local time on Tuesday (Monday 23:51 UTC). Deaths are reported from collapsing buildings in the central city. The top of the iconic Anglican ChristChurch Cathedral has fallen and rubble is strewn throughout the central business district. Two buses are reported to be crushed under the bus exchange. Pools of mud have erupted due to burst water mains and liquefaction. The hospital has been evacuated as people reported cracks and ceilings collapsing. Roads and carparks have cracked and lifted.

The quake was centered in Lyttelton, at a depth of five kilometers. Unlike previous quakes in the region that caused no fatalities, Tuesday quake was shallower and closer to the central city and the damage was much worse. Condemned buildings, weakened by last year’s widespread earthquakes, were destroyed. Some aftershocks have occurred in the area after the earthquake. The historic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch has half collapsed, while the old Canterbury Provincial Chambers building, Piko Wholefoods, and a church on Durham Street have been destroyed.

Emergency services were hampered by gridlock as motorists and pedestrians evacuated the CBD. Electricity, telephone services, and traffic lights suffered outages. Telecom is attempting to assess the damage. Civil Defence is mounting a response with all available national resources, and Cabinet is holding an emergency session. Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Mayor Bob Parker said he was “thrown quite a distance”, that there were scenes of “great confusion” on the streets, and that the quake was “as violent as the one that happened on the 4th of September”. The emergency telephone code, 111 was not working for the entire region of Southland, New Zealand but is apparently stable as of approx. 4 pm NZDT.



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