New Zealand Earthquake Christchurch


At least 75 people have been killed after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand. Updates will be posted here as they come to hand.

TIMES ARE IN AEDT | REFRESH THIS PAGE FOR UPDATES

11.48am Beached Az team releases new video urging donations to the NZ Red Cross.

11.39am Julia Gillard has confirmed a long-term Australian resident has died in the earthquake. The man was a New Zealander by birth but was a permanent resident, with a wife and children in Australia.

“He lost his life in the earthquake as a result of being trapped in rubble,” Ms Gillard said.

11.34am NZPA reports 24 Japanese citizens are missing after the Christchurch quake, including 11 language students feared trapped under the collapsed building of the King’s Education College language school.

11.28am Economists say the earthquake will have massive economic implications for the Canterbury region and the rest of the country, but it’s too early to quantify the impact.

11.26am Luxury cruise liner the Queen Mary 2 has cancelled its visit to Christchurch and will likely stop at the New Zealand capital Wellington instead after it leaves Sydney this afternoon.

11.10am A rescue team spokesman has said they do not think anyone has survived in the Canterbury TV (CTV) Building due to smoke asphyxiation.

He said rescuers had not had any contact with anyone trapped in the building for the past five hours. “Our resources are better used elsewhere.”

11.06am Latest pictures from Christchurch show the army rolling onto the streets:

 

Army, Christchurch

11.03am Police say reports quoting the fire department that rescuers have freed 15 survivors from a collapsed six-storey office building are incorrect. The search for survivors at the CTV building is continuing.

10.53am Queensland’s Urban Search and Rescue Team is leaving for Christchurch today, with technical rescue officers, paramedics and three dogs trained in locating survivors. Chief Superintendent John Cawcutt said: “These dogs can pick up the scent of a person’s breath so they’ll bypass the deceased and go straight for any signs of life.”

10.50am NSW will deploy 200 police officers to Christchurch, leaving on Friday.

10.46am A fire service spokesman comments on the rescue of 15 people found beneath the rubble of the CTV building:

“We’ve got them out of the building and they’re still alive, which was the goal for us, and we’re continuing to search for more.”

10.41am Suncorp, which is scrambling to prepare for a mountain of claims from the earthquake, has reported a massive 39 per cent profit dive today on the back of recent natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand.

Queensland-based Suncorp – one of the largest players in New Zealand’s private insurance market – reported net profit for the six months to December 31 was $223 million, down from $364 million in the previous corresponding period.

10.37am Australia’s breakfast TV shows are facing criticism for their coverage of the earthquake.

Danielle Garland writes on Facebook: Can I ask, WTF breaky TV hosts are doing in Christchurch?? Seriously, like the authorities WANT more people to worry about?? Honestly, their tact is appalling

See more comments on Twitter

10.29am A Brisbane man says he thought he would be buried when the quake hit his office building in Christchurch.

The man, who gave his name only as Tim, told the ABC: “I thought the floors on top of us are going to collapse in. It’s just this blinding intensity that hits you. It’s just this fear, it’s almost like claustrophobia I suppose.

“I just prepared myself to be buried. By miracle, there’s no logic to it, luckily our building doesn’t collapse.”

He’s now thinking of moving his family: “It’s a scary place to be right now and I just don’t know what we’re going to do.”

10.18am NSW firefighters have pulled a woman alive from the ruins of the Pyne Gould building this morning, NZPA reports.

10.10am Rescuers have located and recovered 15 people alive from the CTV (Canterbury Television) building, the Fire Service says.

9.54am Sky News reports three people have been rescued from the PGG (Pyne Gould Guiness) building and rescuers are in contact with others.

9.47am An Australian Air Force Hercules has suffered minor damage in an aftershock after being sent to Christchurch. “A little bit of damage was done,” defence force chief Angus Houston said.

The Hercules was unloading troops and about 20 tonnes of equipment.

9.42am New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has declared a national state of emergency.

9.18am 15 people found alive in “pocket” of collapsed CTV building.

9.16am New figures have just been released by authorities in Christchurch. They say there are 55 bodies in the morgue; 20 more bodies being transported to the morgue and 300 people reported missing.

9.12am A new image from the devastated city of Christchurch shows the ongoing rescue effort today:

 

Christchurch rescuers

9.01am Mayor Bob Parker today described the CTV building where a major rescue effort is under way: “This is a massive building, which is flattened down to less than the space of the ground floor. It’s a terrible site. It’s still on fire.”

Mr Parker was optimistic, however, that more people would still be rescued.

“No matter how hopeless that site may appear, our view is that we’ve got people alive and we’ve got to get them out.”

8.59am Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says he has visited the CTV building, where more than 100 people are believed to be missing, and saw several bodies being removed.

It’s been several hours on that site since we’ve been able to extract anybody who was alive,” he said.

8.43am Julia Gillard says New Zealand has asked for assistance from the NSW Police to help relieve “hard-pressed” local forces. “We will be doing everything we can to work with our New Zealand family,” she said.

8.39am www.stuff.co.nz reports a temporary mortuary for victims has been moved to the Burnham Military Camp “for capacity reasons”.

8.34am Prime Minister Julia Gillard says an Australian resident believed killed in the earthquake was assisted by a passer-by in the last hours of his life. “Our thanks would go to that stranger and I think that’s an emblem of the kind of spirit that we see in Christchurch as people get together to help each other.”

8.28am Money matters: JP Morgan has warned that the Christchurch quake could be the costliest insured disaster since 2008, Bloomberg reports. Excerpt:

Insured losses from the temblor may be [US]$12 billion, Michael Huttner, an analyst at JPMorgan, said in a note to clients. That would be the most expensive calamity since the $19.9 billion loss from Hurricane Ike, which struck the US in 2008, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a New York- based trade group.

More here.

8.24am The ever-wide-eyed Matt Drudge at The Drudge Report has a link to this story, pointing out in a headline that over 100 pilot whales beached themselves off the south island the day before the quake.

8.12am Prime Minister Julia Gillard says a long-term Australian resident of New Zealand origin – “a family man” – is believed to have died.

8.10am Supt David Cliff, pictured below addressing the media today, spoke of the difficulties of the rescue effort. “We want to systematically go through the city and look in the rubble,” he said. “It has been really heart wrenching – we know there are bodies, we know there are deceased but our priority has to be with the living.”

Supt Russell Gibson said every hour or so rescue workers pull a survivor out of the rubble. “It’s time for celebration for us – the staff are quite euphoric when they manage to get someone out. But unfortunately at the same time we find bodies.”

 

Superintendent Dave Cliff

7.56am Canterbury police district superintendent David Cliff says more than 100 people are still believed to be trapped in the Canterbury Television building, some sending text messages to loved ones overnight. “They were coming from a number of people but it has quietened down, so we not sure if the batteries have gone flat.”

A number of people are also believed to be trapped in the Pyne Gould Corporation building and in Christchurch’s famous cathedral.

7.50am The official death toll stands at 39, with authorities using the number of people who have been formally identified. But Prime Minister John Key said: “Police have said to me there is no indication that the number that they gave to me last night of 65 is inaccurate. If anything it is likely to rise from there.”

7.45am The Australian Government is deploying various forms of assistance to New Zealand:

• 36 NSW Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) staff arrived in New Zealand early today.
• 34 more NSW USAR staff are expected to travel to New Zealand by military aircraft later this morning along with two Emergency Management Australia staff.
• 70 Queensland USAR staff will also travel to Christchurch today.
• An Australian Medical Assistance Team is also expected to deploy today.

7.23am A DFAT spokesperson says: “We have confirmed the safety of more than 400 Australians and are seeking to confirm the status of about 1000 who are known or believed to be in the earthquake-affected area.”

7.19am Consular officials hold grave fears for one long-term Australian resident of New Zealand origin who was in Christchurch at the time of yesterday’s earthquake. DFAT officials say definitive advice on Australian casualties won’t be possible for many days.

7.09am New Zealand Labour party leader Phil Goff says the human cost is “horrendous”.

“You look at CTV (Canterbury Television) and its smouldering ruins, I was told late last night, early this morning, there were 87 people who were in that building, I think only a handful have got out.”

7.04am Christchurch Hospital emergency department head Mike Ardagh says staff worked through the night in the dark because of power cuts. “[It was] pretty unusual circumstances. Everyone rolls their sleeves up and gets on with it.”

More than 200 patients have been admitted, many with lacerations, head injuries and broken bones, but as the night went on patients who had been trapped and had more serious injuries arrived, he told Radio New Zealand.

“We’ve got a number of those sorts of patients where the injuries might be harbouring something more dangerous. Some have sadly died, most of the deaths you will hear in the numbers didn’t come to us at all.”

6.55am The New Zealand Cabinet will meet at 9.30am (7.30am AEDT) to consider declaring a national state of emergency, giving more control of the situation to central government.

6.48am Kristy Clemence, 32, has given a dramatic account of the moment the quake hit and her eventual rescue from the roof of the Pyne Gould Corporation Building. She describes her uncertainty as she lay at a steep angle, under her desk, nzherald.co.nz reports.

“It felt like we could be there for days. I didn’t know if I kept moving, things might start getting worse. I thought I would cause more things to collapse and they could fall on other people. I didn’t know what to do.

“I was able to climb through a hole on the roof. I could see the sky so I just climbed out through that [hole].”

6.28am Police Superintendent Russell Gibson tells of scenes of “absolute carnage” in the centre of Christchurch today:

“There are bodies littering the streets – they’re trapped in cars, crushed under rubble, and where they are clearly deceased our focus unfortunately at this time has turned to the living.”

6.22am Newstalk ZB’s Mike Yardley describes the impact of 23 aftershocks on air this morning:

“It was like the city had been chucked on some perverse rollercoaster that had no destination and no endpoint, and of course we still don’t know where that is or when.”

6.09am Hundreds of rescue workers continued to pull people from the wreckage overnight. This picture, by New Zealand Herald photographer Mark Mitchell, shows a survivor lifted to safety by crane from the wreckage of the Pyne Gould Corporation building:

 

Christchurch rescue

5.48am Police Superintendent Russell Gibson Gibson says the number of trapped “could be another 100, it could easily be more than that” and says the death toll will rise from the 65 given yesterday and revised to an official toll of 38 today. “It will be significantly higher than that.”

More than 500 rescuers, including police and military personnel, pulled between 20 and 30 people from the debris overnight, he said.

“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.”

5.37am Residents are being told to go to one of six schools in the city – Lyttelton, Redcliffs, South New Brighton, Shirley, Wainoni and Phillipstown – for emergency water supplies.

Mayor Bob Parker said: “We will have tankers on those sites. You will need to think about taking vessels along to collect water.”

5.31am Civil Defence director John Hamilton says search and rescue personnel from Australia have begun to arrive and “will be deployed straight into the city to assist the New Zealand teams”.

“Until we’ve got the search and rescue teams in place, and systematically go through each building, we won’t get an idea of how many people are missing and unaccounted for.”

5.27am The official death toll from the Christchurch earthquake has been revised to 38.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday put the number of dead at 65, but only 38 people have formally been identified he said this morning.

Earlier today Civil Defence director John Hamilton put the number of deaths at 32. “The difference in the number comes around because police need to do victim identification and notify next of kin. The number that they have completed through that process is 32,” he said.

5.24am Search and rescue teams are today focusing on 10 critical buildings where people may be trapped, says Civil Defence director John Hamilton.

Overnight 11 people were pulled from two buildings by rescuers working under floodlights. The PGG building on Cambridge Terrace and the CTV building on the corner of Madras and Cashel Streets were the worst hit following the 6.3 magnitude quake, and “significant” numbers of people were inside.

5.16am A mother died with her baby in her arms when she was hit by falling debris in Christchurch’s Cashel St Mall, stuff.co.nz reports. Passers-by took the child to safety. It was not known how badly it was hurt.

4.30am Civil Defence agency director John Hamilton said this morning the number of confirmed dead in the earthquake was 32 not 65 as Prime Minister John Key said last night.

Speaking to journalists Mr Hamilton said police had confirmed only 32 deaths so far, as had been identified by police, but there were fears the toll could reach as high as 300, Sky News reported.

3.50am People have been pulled alive from collapsed buildings as rescuers have continued to work throughout the night under floodlights.

Police say they are aware of a number of dead bodies in the PGG building on Cambridge Terrace and the CTV building on Madras and Cashel Streets.

3.10am This picture shows Taiwanese emergency search and rescue teams standing for inspection before heading to help devastated Christchurch. Picture Associated Press.

 

news

3.04am An emergency cabinet meeting will be held at 9.30am local time to discuss offers of specialist teams being send from Japan and the United States to help find people buried under the rubble

2.40am New Zealand’s emergency management chief John Hamilton warned rescue teams have a small window of opportunity to recover people trapped by the quake.

We’re reasonably pragmatic and understanding from international experience that there’s a kind of window of opportunity which may only be open for about two or three days to effect a real rescue of people who have been trapped.

2.10am New Zealand Finance Minister Bill English said financial assistance would be available for those with homes devastated by the quake, TVNZ reported.

The station also revealed authorities are working hard to maintain food supply to Christchurch with water supply cut to 80 per cent of the city.

1.43am This video shows the touching reunion as a man who was trapped for five hours is reunited with his mother.

1.32am International flights to Christchurch Airport are likely to be cancelled until at least this afternoon because of damage to the terminals. Airport spokeswoman Monique Oomen told NZPA the domestic and international terminals had been damaged and needed to be checked before regular flights resumed.

12.45pm The Guardian’s live blog reports that British PM, David Cameron, has passed on his condolences to New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, by text from Kuwait.

12.37pm The Salvation Army says more than 1000 require accommodation in Christchurch tonight. The emergency services coordinator for The Salvation Army in Christchurch, said that The Salvation Army was working as quickly as possible to put teams together, Christian Today reported.

This picture shows hundreds of survivors taking refuge in an evacuation centre that was set up at Hagley Park, picture courtesy of the New Zealand Herald.

 

NZ Quake

12.24pm The Australian has a riveting first-hand account of the quake from survivor Louise Walton:

Straight away, we all went down under the tables; everything started falling, the air-conditioning units started coming out of the ceiling.

12.11pm Stories of touching humanity emerge from the aftermath, @brianedwardsmed tweeted this message today:

Just heard – from total stranger on Twitter – that my daughter and family are ok. He went round to her house for me. Kindness in bad times.

11.43pm At least 120 people have been pulled alive from the rubble, but there’s a report one police officer is missing during the emergency response, Sky News.

11.36pm Police are warning people not to dig through the rubble themselves, 3news.co.nz reports, as at least 80 per cent of Christchurch’s central city is without power.

11.05pm Images taken by New Zealand Herald photographer Mark Mitchell show a city littered with debris from damaged buildings in central Christchurch.

 

christchurch earthquake

Staff prepare to be rescued from a high rise building.

 

christchurch earthquake

The suburb of Bexley has been inundated as a result of the liquefaction caused by the earthquake.

christchurch earthquake

11.02pm This incredible time-lapse map shows the quake and aftershocks and the areas they hit. For the most impressive results change the setting to “last 24 hours”.

10.46pm Google and eq.org.nz have both set up crisis response maps for victims of the quake.

10.27pm Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, has announced Australia will double the number of rescue experts sent to help victims of the quake. A total of 148 Australian Urban Search and Rescue specialists will now be sent to Christchurch at the New Zealand government’s request. Mr McClelland said 74 specialists were already being deployed from NSW, while an additional 74 from Queensland would be sent tomorrow morning.

10.18pm Facebook has set up a website to help “Earthquake Stricken Cantabrians” find accommodation.

10.13pm Australian Seismological Centre director Kevin McCue said the tremor could increase pressure on plate boundaries across New Zealand, increasing the likelihood of a tremor elsewhere, particularly in the capital Wellington. “If you have one (quake) it ups the hazard,” he told the New Zealand Herald. “This quake has the potential to load up the plate boundary, increasing the likelihood of a quake at Wellington.”

9.57pm The Queen is reportedly “utterly shocked” by the Christchurch earthquake. News agency PA reports her statement read:

My thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this dreadful event. My thoughts are also with the emergency services and everyone who is assisting in the rescue efforts.

9.46pm Christchurch has been rocked by 20 aftershocks since the 6.3 quake and University of Melbourne seismologist Gary Gibson said they were likely to continue for weeks, gradually lessening in intensity over time.

9.12pm Incredible rescue images of a man lowering himself from a high-rise building in Christchurch from Channel 9 tonight:

christchurch earthquake

christchurch earthquake

8.44pm The first of two Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft carrying 40 search and rescue specialists and 10 tonnes or cargo is on its way to New Zealand. The Australian Defence Force said the planes left the RAAF base at Richmond, in Sydney’s northwest, at 8pm (AEDT) to help with the search and rescue efforts. Another 30 specialists and 20 tonnes of cargo is due to leave the Richmond base for Christchurch tomorrow morning.

8.38pm There have been reports the Canterbury Television (CTV) building was on fire with people still trapped in the rubble, MSN NZ reports.

8.12pm At least 100 people remain trapped in the ruins of Christchurch tonight, the New Zealand Herald reports, as New Zealand’s TV3 has quoted unconfirmed reports the death toll could reach between 200 and 300.

7.59pm Australian authorities have reminded people concerned about relatives or friends to try to contact them directly. If they cannot be reached, a 24-hour consular emergency hotline, 1300 555 135, is available. Australians in New Zealand can contact consular officials on +612 6261 3305 or the high commission on +64 4473 6411.

7.54pm Fears are growing for at least seven Japanese language students and their teacher who are believed trapped under rubble. Officials at the Toyama College of Foreign Languages say a teacher had contacted her family by SMS, saying she was trapped with seven students, and the family had not heard from her since.

7.51pm Rescuers are focusing on high rise buildings in the central business district, many of which were extensively damaged. They include:
The Pyne Gould Guinness building, which has tilted at an awkward angle and slumped to the ground with 30 people thought to be inside
The Christchurch Press building, opposite Christchurch Cathedral, where people are trapped under desks
The Canterbury TV building, where fatalities have been reported
The Forsyth Barr Tower, which lost its stairs, so those trapped high above ground have been lifted out by crane
People are also feared trapped in city hotels.

7.49pm Civil Defence director John Hamilton says rescuers will work throughout the night in miserable weather looking for survivors.

7.36pm Australian tourists Gwendoline and Ian Robinson were halfway through their lunchtime bagels when the windows in the Christchurch cafe began shattering. Mrs Robinson told stuff.co.nz:

Things started sliding and you could hear it crashing and you looked around and things were just falling everywhere so it was just really strange. You were being shaken backwards and forwards, side to side … everything was moving in different directions.

6.56pm Between 150 and 200 people may still be trapped in earthquake-damaged buildings in Christchurch, the city’s mayor Bob Parker says.

6.53pm This amazing video footage shows Christchurch before and after it was hit by the devastating quake.

6.36pm Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the relatives of the 8000 Australians known to be in the Canterbury area should prepare for the worst.

6.29pm Sydney doctor David Malouf, in Christchurch for a conference with about 400 other Australian doctors, has told of his experience:

The noise was incredible. I don’t understand what made that noise but it was like a jet engine outside. The whole building started to shake, violently shaking to the point where, if you were trying to stand up, you would fall over. The doctors made their way to the hotel foyer, which was covered in glass and pieces of the ceiling, before they walked through the shattered front windows and onto the street. There were just people slowly filing out of buildings with this sort of look of bewilderment on their face. People were very distressed. What was really quite disturbing was water coming out of the ground. Lakes were just appearing in the middle of the street.

6.01pm The earthquake has caused some 30 million tonnes of ice to break off from New Zealand’s biggest glacier. Tour guides at the Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps say the quake caused the ice to “calve” from the glacier, forming icebergs in the terminal lake. Picture: AP

 

Iceberg

5.52pm Trapped in a collapsed office building, bleeding as she waits to be rescued, Australian woman Anne Voss has spoken to the Seven Network on her mobile phone:

I was sitting at my desk, and I went under my desk and the ceiling collapsed on top of the desk.So I’m sort of squashed underneath. I haven’t been able to move really.

5.49pm This description comes from city councilman Barry Corbett, who was on one of the top floors of the city council building when the quake struck:

When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust. It was evident straight away that a lot of buildings had gone.

5.43pm A spokewoman for Christchurch Airport has confirmed the airport is to remain closed tonight night to all but emergency and aid flights NZPA reported. It is hoped domestic flights can resume tomorrow morning at 10am (AEDT) and confirmation of that will be given at 8am. Flights elsewhere in New Zealand resumed about 2.30pm after they were shut down for about an hour.

5.09pm Christchurch Hospital is bracing for a sudden increase in new babies as women go into premature labour brought on by a massive earthquake, NZPA reports.

4.40pm Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says DFAT has been inundated with calls to its helpline, with 2000 calls within the first few hours. He’s reminded concerned Australians to first try contacting their loved one directly, before calling DFAT. He says 8000 Australians are estimated to be in the region at the moment.

4.34pm This photo filed by Getty Images shows crushed cars in a carpark building in Christchurch:

cars in christchurch

4.24pm BULLETIN: NZ PRIME MINISTER JOHN KEY SAYS AT LEAST 65 PEOPLE ARE DEAD.

The death toll I have at the moment is 65 and that may rise. So it’s an absolute tragedy for this city, for New Zealand, for the people that we care so much about. It’s a terrifying time for the people of Canterbury.

4.15pm Authorities say a woman seen sheltering in a window of the Christchurch cathedral in television footage screened earlier today was rescued, and suffered a broken arm.

4.11pm Seventeen people have been confirmed dead, New Zealand’s Civil Defence director John Hamilton says.

4.02pm This multimedia map details the location and anatomy of the earthquake as it struck.

3.53pm This blog post by tectonics geologist Chris Rowan compares last September’s quake in Christchurch with the latest, and explains why the effects of today’s quake were so much more severe. Excerpts:

The proximity of the rupture, combined with the fact that many buildings in Christchurch had unrepaired damage from September’s earthquake, the timing (in the middle of the day rather than the middle of the night) and the ever-looming spectre of liquefaction, which severely magnifies the effects of shaking, have sadly resulted in collapsed buildings, and at least some casualties.

The other thing worth noting is that today’s rupture occurred in a region of crust that, according to modelling, saw a significant stress change in the crust as a result of last September’s earthquake. This seems unlikely to be a coincidence. We’re looking at a grey area between an ‘aftershock’ and a ‘triggered earthquake’ …

More (very scientific) reading here.

3.38pm Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has told the National Press Club this is a “horrible time” for the people of Christchurch:

The damage is large, it’s the middle of the working day, and the earthquake has not been deep from the surface. For the people of Christchurch this just isn’t fair.

3.34pm National political editor Malcolm Farr reports from Canberra:

Julia Gillard ends Question Time and reveals 40 NSW rescue workers are on a RAAF aircraft on their was to the New Zealand quake zone.

Queensland and South Australian emergency specialists have also volunteered.

The PM said latest news was not good, with reports of damage to tourist areas and a youth hostel.

More from Malcolm Farr today in Canberra.

3.29pm Aerial views from helicopters over Christchurch are revealing the extent of the devastation in central Christchurch. Entire office blocks have fallen over, facades of churches have collapsed, there are streets full of water from liquefaction and burst water mains. Emergency services can be seen on rooftops trying to break into buildings where people are believed trapped. The anchors on New Zealand’s TV3 news are clearly rattled by what they are seeing.

3.26pm A delegation of nine members of the US Congress visiting Christchurch are reported to be safe.

3.10pm There are reports of emotional rescues taking place across the city. “They are going to come and get you down. Just keep away from the edge,” a woman yelled to a distraught colleague trapped on the top level of what used to be a four-storey building. The woman was rescued by firefighters on a crane, hugging her colleagues as she reached the ground.

3.06pm New Zealand police have set up a page with their latest information on the Canterbury Earthquake.

3.05pm The NZ Herald has a guide to affected infrastructure in Christchurch. Inner-city residents are being asked to save water, some roads are impassable and power is being slowly restored to the city. Read on here.

2.36pm Julia Gillard says it’s too early to say how many Australians were in Christchurch, but the national women’s cricket team, which has been training there, are safe. “We’ve got no reports at this stage of Australian fatalities,” she says.

2.29pm Christchurch’s mayor has declared a state of emergency, saying it was a “black day” for the city.

2.22pm Australia has sent a search and rescue team to Christchurch. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has spoken directly with NZ Prime Minister John Key and Australia would provide any assistance requested. She told parliament the images from Christchurch were “truly shocking”:

People wandering around with blood literally streaming across their heads and faces. Images of buildings that have been reduced to rubble…

2.17pm TV3 reports bodies have been seen coming out of a YHA hostel.

2.16pm A map pulled together by Paul Nicholls of the University of Canterbury’s Digital Media Group in Christchurch shows the spreading intensity of the earthquake. A picture follows but you can see the full animation at the website.

 

Christchurch intensity

2.04pm Google has launched a “person finder” tool for the Christchurch earthquake which starts with a simple question – “what is your situation?” – and the options are either that you’re looking for someone or have information about someone. See it here.

1.56pm A passenger on board a plane that landed in Christchurch as the quake hit has described seeing the terminal shuddering on the ground. Also:

Auckland Airport spokesman Richard Llewellyn said the airways system around the country was closed shortly after the 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck just after 1pm local time (11am AEDT).

“For the moment planes are landing but no planes are departing,” Mr Llewellyn said.

Christchurch Airport remains closed and was evacuated following the earthquake.

More in our travel section.

1.46pm The before-and-after interactive slider below shows how Christchurch Cathedral looks after its spire, which stands over 63m above the square, has been reduced to a stump.

 

Christchurch Cathedral before the February 22, 2011 quake

Before
Christchurch Cathedral after the February 22, 2011 earthquake

After
handle

1.30pm The NZ dollar has dropped heavily on the currency markets. More from Bloomberg.

1.24pm This amazing description of the scene in Christchurch has just been filed into the online coverage of NZ’s National Business Review. Their reporter Chris Hutching phoned into the newsroom – here are some edited extracts of what he said:

“Mate, this is chaos … it’s incredible … I’m in the middle of town now … This time people have been killed … I have just been ordered off the scene of one collapsed building where the police told me there were dead people underneath … Police got very upset when I started taking photos of this building … they ran over and said here was a dead person under there … There is a fire in a building at the corner of Armagh and Hereford Sts and they have helicopters going over with monsoon buckets … the Hotel Grand Chancellor, a 24 level building completed in 1990 – one corner of it appears to have collapsed … It’s one of the tallest buildings in Christchurch. It will have to come down … Going around, any brick building that survived the last one is rooted.”

More here.

1.04pm Facebook links…. there is a Christchurch Quake live page with updates from people on the ground and people seeking information on loved ones. Also if you are looking to contact loved ones you can try the #eqnzContact hashtag on Twitter.

12.57pm New Zealand’s National Business Review reports on the government response:

Prime Minister John Key will fly to Christchurch immediately after an emergency Cabinet meeting at 3pm, conditions permitting.

The Civil Defence bunker in the Beehive had been activated, but details of the damage in Christchurch remained extremely “sketchy” as communication with Christchurch Civil Defence was limited following the quake, he said.

Mr Key said fatalities could not yet be ruled out.

“Details are sketchy. But the worrying fear is that this earthquake has taken place at a time when Cantabrians were going about their business, a very populated time with people at work, children at school.”

More here.

12.50pm Link to the USGS report on the quake, which puts it at 5.6 on the Richter scale and at 6.7km below the surface. There are also maps, graphs and other data at the link.

12.41pm The NZ Herald reports Vodafone are asking people to refrain from making calls and send text messages instead.

12.23pm Also from the NZ Herald – police have called in defence forces to help evacuate the CBD and stricken residents.

12.21pm From the NZ Herald’s Twitter feed:

Fire Service has just confirmed to RadioNZ that there have been deaths in Christchurch.

12.16pm BULLETIN: New Zealand quake causes multiple fatalities and building collapses: police

12.07pm NZ Prime Minister John Key said in Parliament that he could not rule out fatalities. There are unconfirmed reports in local media that bodies have been found. Also NZPA just reported:

Civil Defence Minister John Carter said there had been unconfirmed reports of fatalities.

11.58am Sky News NZ quotes the civil defence minister as saying there are unconfirmed reports of fatalities. Several witnesses on the streets reported people injured in their offices when the quake struck just after 1pm local time (11am AEDT).

11.56am Christchurch airport has been closed.

Earlier “You can see cars rocking as they go down the road,” Sky News correspondent Kate King reports.

“I saw the ground role up in front of me. It lasted for about 20 to 30 seconds.”

King said she saw fresh cracks appear in the road and “waterfalls of water” streaming as they pushed out of the ground.

“It’s fair to say I’m a bit scared. There are people hugging each other. It’s quite traumatic. Quite a lot of these people have lost a lot financially and mentally.”

The shock measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.

Christchurch was rocked by a 7.1 earthquake in September last year causing widespread destruction.

This aftershock is the most severe of the thousands of aftershocks since then.

Local reports say buildings and houses had collapsed all around the city centre and the city’s iconic cathedral had been destroyed.

Christchurch Hospital was being evacuated, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

Witnesses have told local reporters there would be “deaths” this time.

Power was out in the city and phone lines were down.

“It was incredibly violent, very very scary,” one visitor to the city, Philip Gregan told AAP over the phone.

“We’re all standing out on the street with sirens going off around us.

“Oh no, there’s another one,” he said while on the phone.

“I want to get out of here.”

Auckland GNS Science said the quake was centred at Lyttelton at a depth of 5km.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the jolt was felt in the capital Wellington to the north and the city of Dunedin to the south.

Residents say it lasted about a minute.

Tarmac on the road was cracked and water mains had burst, flooding the streets with water.

Christchurch was hit with a devastating magnitude 7.1 on September 4 last year.

The epicentre was 40km west of Christchurch at a depth of 10km.

The city, New Zealand’s third largest, has been shaking regularly since, with aftershocks up to 5.1 magnitude recorded.

The mayor of a New Zealand city rattled by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake says there are reports of serious injuries from the temblor.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says Tuesday’s quake left people in the city council building injured, and he’s heard reports of other serious injuries throughout the city.

The US Geological Survey said the temblor was centred five kilometres from the city at a depth of four kilometres.
Christchurch has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks since a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck on September 4 last year, causing extensive damage and a handful of injuries, but no deaths.

About Meganita Marannu

Accounting student
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