Large earthquake hits Christchurch
December 23, 2011 - 1:31PM
Read more: Large earthquake hits Christchurch, New Zealand | NZ
A large earthquake has hit Christchurch.
The 5.8-magnitude quake sent the airport building swaying from side to side and shoppers scurried from a supermarket as products fell from shelves. Here's live coverage of the event as news comes to hand.
1.41pm ‘‘Unfortunately we have got use to this," mayor Bob Parker told TVNZ. "We’ll get over the initial shock ... It’s going to be a hell of a day, my heart just breaks really. So many people have been through so much.’’ He said the quake would set back the city’s rebuild after earlier quakes and power, water and sewage systems would need to be checked.
1.39pm The National Crisis Management Centre in Wellington is being activated and Civil Defence advised people to expect aftershocks. Police will fly over the areas hit by the quake to assess damage from the air.
1.36pm Assessments of the airport’s buildings and runways were being carried out following the quake.
1.33pm Four people had to be rescued after they were trapped by rockfall in Boulder Bay, police say. There was no sign of any serious damage to the city but the WINZ building in New Brighton had suffered some damage, police spokesman Steven Hill said. All the staff had to be evacuated. One person, who was at the Eastgate Mall in Linwood, had been injured and was taken to hospital, Hill said.
1.30pm Power is expected to be restored to most areas within an hour.
1.28pm Another big aftershock has hit Christchurch, about 90 minutes after the first big quake today. Stuff.co.nz reports the second quake felt stronger than the first.
1.25pm Seismologist Ken Gledhill has told TVNZ the quake was a little bit further from the city than most of the previous aftershocks, but it seemed to follow the same pattern.‘‘It’s likely there will be a series of aftershocks which will gradually drop off.’’
1.14pm The political Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority head Roger Sutton was at home ready for the holidays when the quake hit. Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker was at Lake Taupo getting ready to celebrate Christmas with his family when the quake hit. He said he was desperately trying to get back home and was expected to land in Christchurch after 7.30pm. ‘‘It’s going to be one hell of a day,’’ he said. The airport is expected to reopen about 4pm.
1.13pm There was no sign of any damage to the city, police spokesman Steven Hill said. One person, who was at the Eastgate Mall in Linwood, had been injured and was taken to hospital, Hill said. All the malls have been closed and the police patrols are searching the streets for damage.
1.10pm People shopping and working at the Westfield mall were almost in tears as they spoke of another Christmas marred by earthquakes. Mall worker Noelene Barron, said that while the quake was frightening, the worst thing was knowing that there were likely to be ongoing aftershocks now.
1.08pm Power company Orion said power outage was due to shaking rather than long-term equipment damage.
12.59pm Local woman Juliet McVeigh told AAP the quake was loud and was the first quake to actually wake her toddler Otto.‘‘He woke screaming, which he has never done. ‘‘It was violent, some are long and slow. This one was violent and then three or four aftershocks.’’
12.57pm People in the area are being urged not to use mobile phones to place calls but to text to check on friends and relatives - phone lines that are still up and running are increasingly jammed, NZ Telecom says.
12.52pm AAP reports police were unable to immediately confirm if there had been any damage but St John ambulance said it was dealing with some minor injuries. Calls could not get through to the fire service.
12.42pm Power is out in much of the city and phone lines are down. There are also now reports of at least one person injured. Rockfalls have been reported in the Sumner area.
12.39pm Aftershocks are being felt throughout the region. There are, however, no reports of injury.
12.35pm There have been early reports of liquefaction in some areas - when solid ground turns to liquid, which was a major problem during the deadly February quake that claimed 182 lives.
12.34pm Qantas tweeted at 12.18pm that a Christchurch-bound flight had been diverted to Wellington and it's likely others will be too. The airport has been closed.
12.32pm Reports just to hand suggest that the quake was felt as far south as Queenstown and as far north as Lower Hutt, according to GeoNet. People in Greymouth, Ashburton, Dunedin, Hanmer Springs and Oamaru also felt the quake.
An earlier report from stuff.co.nz said the quake struck at 1.58pm, local time, and was followed by a second sharp jolt a few minutes later. Several other aftershocks have also been recorded.
The Christchurch Airport has been evacuated and the Fire Service deployed.
Fairfax reporter Hamish Rutherford, who was at the airport, said the alarms had gone off, people had left the building, and were now waiting outside.
He said people kept calm while the building rocked from side to side during the strong quake, which lasted about 20 seconds.
A visitor to the city said Westfield Mall was being evacuated. Terrified shoppers stumbled and fell as they fled the mall and items tumbled off shelves.
Phone lines are down.
Website Geonet reported that quake struck about 20 kilometres north-east of Lyttleton at a depth of about 8km and a magnitude of 5.8.
A police spokeswoman did not know whether there had been any reports of damage or injuries but said the phones were very busy.Anthony Surynt was working in an electrical workshop in Sydenham when the quake struck.
He said it was the biggest one he has felt since June 13, when a 6.3 magnitude hit struck the city.Surynt and his work colleagues estimated it was about a 5 to 5.5 magnitude quake.
It was followed by a smaller aftershock.He could see the Grand Chancellor from where he was and said it was still standing.
Nothing had fallen off the shelves but it was quite a scare as there hadn't been many large earthquakes in the area for a while, he said.
It lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds, but didn't have any sharp "vicious movements" like the previous quakes had caused.The quake was also felt in Dunedin.Last year Christchurch was rocked by a series of earthquakes on Boxing day, with more than two dozen recorded.
A 4.9-magnitude quake at 10.30am was the seventeenth most powerful since the damaging 7.1 quake on September 4.The earthquake that caused the most damage hit on February 22, killing 182 people.
Read more: Large earthquake hits Christchurch, New Zealand | NZ