65 die as quake ravages New Zealand city (Third Lead)

February 22nd, 2011 - 7:00 pm ICT by IANS  

John Key Christchurch, Feb 22 (IANS) At least 65 people were killed and over 100 buried under flattened buildings Tuesday when the second worst earthquake ever in New Zealand devastated Christchurch, one of its biggest cities.There was massive destruction in Christchurch as entire buildings collapsed, water pipes ruptured, powerlines fell and roads cracked. A 150-year-old cathedral was damaged, media reports said.

A TV report speculated that the death toll could be as high as 300.

TV images showed several badly damaged buildings after the 12.51 p.m. tremors when the central city was crowded with lunch hour shoppers, office workers and school children.

The earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale. Prime Minister John Key warned that the death toll could rise. Key, who flew to Christchurch, told One News website that the quake could be the country’s “darkest day”.

Christchurch residents recalled the horror.

“We’ve had friends in town call us and say there are just bodies lying around; lots of dead bodies outside shops just lying there just covered in bricks,” the New Zealand Herald quoted Jaydn Katene as saying.

“When it hit we were knocked to our feet. Everything in the house fell down, nothing was left still standing. The roads are completely torn up, sewage (is) coming up and flooding. It’s crazy,” Katene added.

“The elderly are all crying. The next door neighbours around us were all bawling their eyes out, it was horrible.

“We’ve seen cars halfway sunk into the road. We heard there’s a bus which is sunken halfway into the road just around the corner.

“Buildings are half-collapsed everywhere… It’s pretty shocking; a total war zone,” Katene said.

Authorities declared a state of emergency.

Another resident, Jane Smith, told the Herald that a colleague helped with rescue efforts after a building facade collapsed on a bus.

“There’s people dead. He was pulling them out of a bus,” she said.

Amid panic and fear, rescuers raced to dig out those trapped in collapsed or seriously damaged buildings. Many victims screamed in pain as they were taken out of the debris.

Those who scrambled out of buildings were dusty, dishevelled and disoriented.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said over 100 people were trapped in about six places and it was possible more were buried in individual homes.

The toll is the second highest in a New Zealand earthquake. As many as 256 people had died in a 1931 Hawke’s Bay temblor.

Parker told Radio New Zealand: “The centre of the earthquake was in Lyttelton Harbour. There are hills covered in rocks, those rocks would have come down.”

He said there was immense damage to the city centre.

Police said emergency services were battling a number of fires and trying to rescue many trapped people, DPA reported.

The videos posted online reveal extensive destruction, including cars crushed under rockslides in suburbs like Sumner and Lyytleton.

Witnesses said the ground lifted up to one metre in places.

The New Zealand Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences said the epicentre was near Christchurch, at a depth of five kilometers.

A September quake, with an epicentre 30 km west of the city at a depth of 33 km, struck early morning when the city was largely empty. As a result there were no fatalities.

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