Christchurch, NZ Rocked by Massive Earthquake

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand at 12:51 PM local time on Tuesday (Monday 23:51 UTC). At least 32 people have been killed. Earlier, Prime Minister John Key advised media of 65 deaths from collapsing buildings in central Christchurch, with more expected, but the number was cut in half because police have only been able to confirm the deaths of 32 people. The spire of the iconic Anglican ChristChurch Cathedral has fallen and rubble is strewn throughout the central business district. Roads and carparks have cracked and lifted, and two buses are reported to be crushed under the bus exchange. Pools of mud have erupted due to burst water mains and liquefaction. Boulders and falling cliff faces have destroyed buildings on hillside suburbs. Fears for the safety of nearby towns Lyttleton and Akaroa are exacerbated due to communication problems.

The earthquake was centered near Christchurch, at a depth of five kilometers, according to the United States Geological Survey. 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 largest so far was a magnitude 5.6 which occurred at 7:04 p.m. February 21 EDT (1:04:18 p.m. local time, February 22). The historic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch has half collapsed, while the old Canterbury Provincial Chambers building, Piko Wholefoods, Canterbury Television, and a church on Durham Street have been destroyed.

The earthquake also caused an estimated 30 million tons of ice to break off of the Tasman Glacier forming icebergs in a lake near its foot. Tourists on boats at the time of the quake say waves of 3.5 meters swept the lake for at least 30 minutes following the event. The glacier sits on the country’s west coast, approximately 120 miles (200km) from Christchurch. No injuries were reported.

Many people are trapped in damaged buildings or under rubble, but emergency services have been hampered by gridlock as motorists and pedestrians evacuated the CBD. The main hospital remains operational despite one damaged ward being closed, and three triage centers have been set up to provide medical aid. Several hundred delegates attending a medical conference in the city, the great majority from Australia, have been trapped in the city; some of these are assisting with tending to the injured.

Electricity, telephone services, and traffic lights suffered widespread outages. Telecom is attempting to assess the damage, and generators have been sent down from Auckland to replace the backup generators in the city. Civil Defense 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. Christchurch Airport is currently closed to all but emergency flights. Speaking after the earthquake, Bob Parker said at least 200 people are believed trapped under rubble, saying that New Zealand are “going to be presented with statistics that are going to be bleak.

Christchurch: Backgrounder

Christchurch (M?ori: ?tautahi) is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country’s second-largest urban area. It lies one third of the way down the South Island’s east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula which itself, since 2006, lies within the formal limits of Christchurch.

The city was named by the Canterbury Association, which settled the surrounding province of Canterbury. The name of Christchurch was agreed on at the first meeting of the association on 27 March 1848. It was suggested by John Robert Godley, who had attended Christ Church, Oxford. Some early writers called the town Christ Church, but it was recorded as Christchurch in the minutes of the management committee of the association. Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856, making it officially the oldest established city in New Zealand.

The river that flows through the centre of the city (its banks now largely forming an urban park) was named Avon at the request of the pioneering Deans brothers to commemorate the Scottish Avon, which rises in the Ayrshire hills near what was their grandfathers’ farm and flows into the Clyde.

The usual M?ori name for Christchurch is ?tautahi (“the place of Tautahi). This was originally the name of a specific site by the Avon River near present-day Kilmore Street and the Christchurch Central Fire Station. The site was a seasonal dwelling of Ng?i Tahu chief Te Potiki Tautahi, whose main home was Port Levy on Banks Peninsula. The ?tautahi name was adopted in the 1930s. Prior to that the Ng?i Tahu generally referred to the Christchurch area as Karaitiana, a transliteration of the English name.

2010–2011 earthquakes
September 2010

An earthquake with magnitude 7.1 occurred in the South Island, New Zealand at Saturday 04:35 AM local time, 4 September 2010 (16:35 UTC, 3 September 2010).The earthquake occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.0 miles), and there were no fatalities.

The epicenter was located 40 kilometres (25 mi) west of Christchurch; 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south-east of Darfield;[12] 190 kilometres (120 mi) south-southeast of Westport; 295 kilometres (183 mi) south-west of Wellington; and 320 kilometres (200 mi) north-northeast of Dunedin.
Building damage in Worcester Street, corner Manchester Street, with ChristChurch Cathedral in the background.

Sewers were damaged, gas and water lines were broken, and power to up to 75% of the city was disrupted. Among the facilities impacted by lack of power was the Christchurch Hospital, which was forced to use emergency generators in the immediate aftermath of the quake.

A state of emergency was declared at 10:16 am on 4 September for the city, and evacuations of parts were planned to begin later in the day. People inside the Christchurch city centre were evacuated, and the city’s central business district remained closed until 5 September . A curfew from 7 pm on September 4 to 7 am on 5 September was put in place.The New Zealand Army was also deployed to assist police and enforce the curfew. All schools were closed until 8 September so they could be checked.

Christchurch International Airport was closed following the earthquake and flights in and out of it canceled. It reopened at 1:30 pm following inspection of the main runway.

The earthquake was reported to have caused widespread damage and power outages. 63 aftershocks were also reported in the first 48 hours with three registering 5.2 magnitude. Christchurch residents reported chimneys falling in through roofs, cracked ceilings and collapsed brick walls.Total Earthquake Commission, insurance and individual costs may reach as high as NZ$4 billion according to the New Zealand Treasury.

An earthquake of magnitude 6.3 occurred on 22 February 2011. It was centerd on Lyttelton 10 kilometers south of Christchurch and at a depth of 5km.

In contrast to the September 2010 quake, the 6.3-magnitude quake struck on a busy weekday afternoon. At least 65 people were killed, and hundreds injured.

Many buildings were severely damaged, including the iconic ChristChurch Cathedral.

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