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New Zealand suffers ‘darkest day’ as at least 65 killed in earthquake

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 7:58am MDT
A building's facade lies in the street after the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. (TwitPic / bebe33)

A building's facade lies in the street after the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Click the image to view a slideshow. (TwitPic / bebe33)

Christchurch, New Zealand was struck by a powerful magnitude 6.3 earthquake on Tuesday that wreaked havoc across the nation’s second largest city.  Buildings were reduced to rubble and people buried alive in what is being called the ‘darkest day’ in the New Zealand history.

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.

In September the area was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake and recovery efforts from that quake were still underway 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.  

Slideshow: 'Utter devastation' in Christchurch, New Zealand after earthquake

Slideshow: 'Utter devastation' in Christchurch, New Zealand after earthquake

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.

This story was originally published by the Natural Disasters Examiner.  Please visit there for the latest on all types of natural disasters.

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