New Zealand Earthquake Kills 65, Damages $12 BillionFeb 22nd, 2011 | By Sue Gonzales | Category: Travel
A 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand during the lunch hour Tuesday, killing at least 65 and destroying an estimated $12 billion in property. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says this may be his country’s darkest day.
The quake struck while streets were filled with office workers and shoppers. Multi-story buildings caved in, sending rubble flying onto traffic, crushing cars and buses, and filling the streets with glass and smashed office equipment. The six-story Canterbury TV building caved into a pile of smoking ruin. The city cathedral’s spire crashed.
Survivors helped carry away the injured. Helicopters and cranes rescued those stranded on top of buildings.
Rescue teams worked through the night freeing those trapped under debris. Some victims have been able to call out on cell phones.
Rescue efforts face power outages, mobile phone outages, and burst water mains, which are flooding some areas.
Transport aircraft are flying in support. Countries around the world are extending assistance.
The tremor’s epicenter was at a depth of 5km in the middle of Lyttelton Harbour about 10km from the city. It struck at 12:51 pm.
The quake was an aftershock from a 7.1-magnitude quake that started 10km underground 40km west of Christchurch on September 4. Geologists have not yet determined if yesterday’s earthquake was on the same fault line as the September quake.
Yesterday’s earthquake was 30 times weaker than the September one, but still generated energy equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. It did more damage because it struck closer to the surface and because some buildings were already weakened by the earlier quake.
More large aftershocks followed the initial jolt, including a 5.7-magnitude quake eight minutes after the first shock, and others of up to 5.5 magnitude.
The quake was felt as far north as Tauranga. Swinging lights were reported in Pukekohe.
The shock caused large icebergs to break off the Tasman Glacier and fall into Terminal Lake, sending large waves towards the shore.
JPMorgan Chase & Co estimates property damage at $12 billion. This represents the costliest natural disaster for insurers since 2008.