New Zealand’s second largest city, Christchurch, was struck by a powerful magnitude 6.3 earthquake Tuesday afternoon. The temblor reduced buildings to rubble burying many people alive and killing at least 65 in what has been called the nation’s ‘darkest day.’
The quake, which struck at 12:51pm local time and at a shallow 3.1 mile depth, has been followed by a serious of significant aftershocks. The seven additional temblors have ranged from magnitude 4.1 up to magnitude 5.6.
- Related: Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake – Resources for news and information
In September the area was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake and recovery efforts from that quake were still under way when the new quake struck. Buildings that were already weakened by last year’s quake, then the initial quake today struggled to hold up with the ongoing aftershocks.
Prime Minister John Key said, “It is just a scene of utter devastation. We may well be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day.”
Digging through the rubble to reach those who may yet be buried remained a priority. At least 65 people have been confirmed killed but as rescuers continue to search collapsed buildings and they fear the toll may rise further.
- In pictures – View the slideshow to the left for images of the destruction in Christchurch, New Zealand
- Live video – Complete live coverage of the quake from Sky News
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Dozens of people are reported missing as residents search frantically for loved ones.
Among the missing are 12 students from Japan’s Toyama College of Foreign Languages. The school was visiting a building in Christchurch which collapsed when the quake struck. Two teachers and nine students have been accounted for while the search continues for the others.
Infrastructure across the city has virtually collapsed and hampers recovery efforts. Phone lines have been cut including the city’s emergency 111 system. Water mains broke sending water gushing into streets and neighborhoods, pavement on roads was cracked and split and 80 percent of the city is without power.
The scene in the center of Christchurch was one of utter devastation with buildings reduced to nothing more than remnants of brick and mortar. Cars were buried under the rubble of buildings whose facades fell into the streets below.
The iconic Christchurch Cathedral sustained severe damage as its spire fell into the street. In the Pyne Gould Guinness Building where 200 workers were when the quake struck, an unknown number of them remain buried. Amid cries for help, rescuers continued to pull bloodied people from the rubble.
Queen Elizabeth II sent a message voicing her sympathies to Key. The Queen wrote, “Please convey my deep sympathy to the families and friends of those who have been killed; my thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this dreadful event.”
Geologists said today’s quakes were aftershocks of a more significant magnitude 7.1 temblor that struck the same area in September.