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Christchurch rocked by two large earthquakes

Extensive damage reported after two major aftershocks in New Zealand city within two hours Two large aftershocks have struck Christchurch, less than four months after the New Zealand city was devastated by a massive earthquake that killed 181 people.


Despite widespread damage, there were no initial reports of fatalities from the latest quakes on Monday afternoon.

More than 10 people were reported to be injured, but none was believed to be critical. Many of the injuries occurred within the central city cordon, where major building works have been under way since the quake of 22 February, which destroyed much of the central business district. Workers had been evacuated from the “red zone” following the first aftershock, avoiding further casualties, said the Christchurch mayor, Bob Parker.

The first of the aftershocks measured 5.5 magnitude and struck at 1pm New Zealand time, at a depth of 11km, 10km to the east of the city. The second, larger shock, was at 2.20pm, measured 6.0, and was centred 10km south-east of the city at a depth of 9km. A series of smaller shocks were felt over a two-hour period.

Graduate student James Macbeth Dann was cycling on Barbados Street, the border of the “red zone”, when the second of the two major quakes began. “At first I thought my tire had blown, and then I looked up and the street lights were rocking backwards and forwards,” he said.

The gravity of the quake was immediately clear, he said. “The road was moving, the buildings were moving.”

The shocks were felt as far afield as Dunedin in the south and Wellington at the foot of the North Island.

Buildings across the city were evacuated, including the city’s airport. More than 50,000 homes lost electricity. The city’s cathedral was reported to have suffered fresh damage.

The Hotel Grand Chancellor in the city centre, which slumped dramatically in the February quake, had tipped further towards the ground, said witnesses.

Flooding was reported in parts of the city’s eastern suburbs. Residents described damage to homes, sewage leaks, and gridlock on the roads.

“The psychological toll is beginning to tell on people,” resident Colin Young told Radio New Zealand. “They really have had enough.”

Bob Parker said he understood that some residents would consider leaving the city. “I understand that,” he told Radio New Zealand. “People will make decisions for their own wellbeing.”

The prime minister, John Key, said: “It is another blow to Christchurch residents, who have already endured so much. However, today’s events in no way weaken the government’s long-term commitment to rebuilding Christchurch and surrounding areas.”

He added: “The people of Christchurch should know that all New Zealanders are thinking of them and will continue to support and stand by them at this difficult time.”

The region has been hit by dozens of earthquakes since a magnitude 7.1 quake in September last year, which caused widespread damage but no fatalities.

Filed in: World News

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