A powerful magnitude 6.3 earthquake rocked Christchurch, New Zealand Tuesday afternoon (local time) causing damage and reportedly trapping residents in rubble. The temblor follows on a larger quake less than six months ago from which the city was still recovering.
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The latest quake occurred at 12:51pm local time (6:51 EST) and was centered nearly directly underneath Christchurch. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) place the quake at a depth of a relatively shallow 3.1 miles (5 km). The quake was followed 15 minutes later by a sizeable 5.6 magnitude quake in the same area.
- Video – Christchurch, New Zealand rocked by significant earthquake
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Reports from the area describe a scene of extensive damage with water lines broken, streets crumbled and damage to buildings. Authorities have closed the local airport and the nation’s transit authority says it has been unable to reach staff at the Lyttleton Tunnel.
New Zealand television interviewed a priest outside the rubble of church as he said, “It is huge. We just don’t know if there are people under this rubble.”
Police released a statement saying, “Multiple fatalities have been reported at several locations in the central city, including two buses crushed by falling buildings. A doctor and emergency services are attending.”
Local television showed what appeared to be bodies being pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Mayor Bob Parker told Radio New Zealand, “” I know of people in our building who are injured and I’ve had some reports of serious injuries throughout the city.”
Parker urged residents to avoid the water supply and stay off the streets as their current condition is unknown and will be needed for emergency officials.
The mayor and many residents said they thought the quake was more significant than a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck in September. That quake struck at a similar shallow depth and was called “the greatest disaster New Zealand has seen.”
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Magnitude – 6.3
Date-Time – Monday, February 21, 2011 at 23:51:43 UTC
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 12:51:43 PM at epicenter
5 km (3.1 miles)
SOUTH ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND
NEAR Christchurch, New Zealand
225 km (140 miles) SSE of Westport, New Zealand
305 km (190 miles) SSW of WELLINGTON, New Zealand
310 km (190 miles) NE of Dunedin, New Zealand