Powerful earthquake hits New Zealand’s second largest city, casualties unknown

September 4th, 2010 - 12:05 am ICT by BNO News  

NEW ZEALAND (BNO NEWS) — A powerful earthquake rocked New Zealand’s second largest city on early Saturday morning, seismologists said, and heavy damage is possible.

The 7.4-magnitude earthquake at 4.35 a.m. local time (1635 GMT Friday) was centered 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest from Christchurch, the country’s second-largest city. It struck about 33 kilometers (20 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the GeoNet Data Center, the country’s seismological agency.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the strength of the earthquake at 7.2 on the Richter scale.

The USGS estimated that around 22,000 people likely perceived ‘extreme’ shaking, which could potentially result in ‘very heavy damage’. Another 187,000 people were estimated to have perceived ‘violent’ shaking, which could result in heavy to very heavy damage.

The agency further estimated that about 202,000 people perceived ’severe’ shaking, while 24,000 others perceived ‘very strong shaking. Thousands more felt less intense shaking.

There was no immediate word on damage or casualties, but local media reported that power was knocked out across Christchurch and surrounding areas.

No tsunami warning was issued. “No destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin.

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