NZ city rocked by major earthquake
South Island city of Christchurch hit by second quake in six months
Multiple fatalities and widespread damage to buildings, rail lines and roads has been reported after a powerful earthquake struck Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island.
The earthquake hit at 12:51pm local time and was centred 10km south-east of the city at a depth of 5km and cause widespread damage. The damage is far worse than that caused by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit the city last September, because its epicentre was closer and shallower.
The centre of the city suffered considerable damage. Christchurch Cathedral, an iconic stone building in the centre of the city, was partly destroyed, and its spire toppled into the square below.
"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," John Gurr, a camera technician, told the Reuters news agency. "Colombo Street, the main street, is just a mess."
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said he was on the top floor of the city council building when the quake hit, throwing him across the room.
"I got down onto the street and there were scenes of great confusion, a lot of very upset people," he said. "What I can see from where I am in the central city is that there are significant amounts of additional damage."
Emergency staff have been working their way through the rubble of collapsed buildings, searching for survivors, and Mayor Parker has told residents that the full extent of the damage and casualties is not full known at present.
"Make no mistake - this is going to be a very black day for this shaken city," he added.