Christchurch a 'war zone' after quake

2011-02-22 08:03

Wellington - A strong earthquake killed at least 65 people in New Zealand's second-biggest city of Christchurch, with more casualties expected as desperate rescuers picked through rubble to find people trapped in toppled buildings.

It was the second quake to hit the city in five months.

"We may well be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day...The death toll I have at the moment is 65 and that may rise," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told local TV.

The 6.3 magnitude quake struck at lunchtime, when the streets and shops were thronged with people and the offices were still occupied.

War zone

Christchurch's mayor described the city of almost 400 000 people as a war zone.

"There will be deaths, there will be a lot of injuries, there will be a lot of heartbreak in this city," Mayor Bob Parker told Australian TV by phone.

Helicopters dumped giant buckets of water to try to douse a fire in one tall office building. A crane helped rescue workers trapped in another office block.

"I was in the square right outside the cathedral - the whole front has fallen down and there were people running from there. There were people inside as well," said John Gurr, a camera technician who was in the city centre when the quake hit.

Authorities ordered major hospitals up and down the country to make room for quake victims. There were reports of a shortage of ambulances.

"A lady grabbed hold of me to stop falling over...We just got blown apart. Colombo Street, the main street, is just a mess...There's lots of water everywhere, pouring out of the ground," Gurr said.

Emergency crews picked through the rubble, including a multi-storey office building whose floors appeared to have pancaked on top of each other.

Silt, sand and gravel

Christchurch is built on silt, sand and gravel, with a water table beneath. In an earthquake, the water rises, mixing with the sand and turning the ground into a swamp and swallowing up sections of road and entire cars.

TV footage showed sections of road that had collapsed into a milky, sand-coloured lake right beneath the surface. One witness described the footpaths as like "walking on sand".

Unlike last year's even stronger tremor, which struck early in the morning when streets were virtually empty, people were walking or driving along streets when the shallow tremor struck, sending awnings and the entire faces of buildings crashing down.

Police said debris had rained down on two buses, crushing them, but there was no word whether anyone had been killed or injured.

The quake hit at 12:51 (23:51 GMT) at a depth of only 4km, according to the US Geological Survey.

"It's huge, it's just huge," a priest told a TV reporter outside the remains of the city's stone cathedral, part of which had been reduced to a pile of large sandstone blocks.

"I just don't know whether there are people under this rubble," he said, before he appeared to add in a quiet voice: "I think so."

- Are you there or do you have family there? Tell us your stories, send us your pictures

  • Sharon - 2011-02-22 08:12

    Thoughts and prayers to all the people of Christchurch. To the people who lost loved ones my deepest sympathy.

  • LoveJesus - 2011-02-22 08:15

    Up to now there were warning upon warnin upon warning! When will people turn to their God and admit that they need Him?

      mr.clever.pete - 2011-02-22 08:19

      Idiot, It's probably their God causing it

      Janine - 2011-02-22 08:22

      What an inane comment. Who do you think causes the earthquakes in the first place? Take your holier than thou attitude somewhere else and grow some compassion.

      avonhelden - 2011-02-22 08:26

      And what is he going to do - come down from heaven and rescue everyone???? MORON!

      Crispy_Duck - 2011-02-22 08:27

      Um...which god are we talking about here? Buhdda, Kali, Yaweh, Allah, Ra, Baal?

      theoldmanofthemountains - 2011-02-22 08:29

      LJ, I'm a reborn Christian, so take this as one Christian rebuking another: there is no correlation between the human tragedy that follows virtually natural disaster and turning to God and admitting that you need him. You do your faith no favors by making such a ludicrous claim. It's a sad fact that Christians are often their faith's worst enemies. Your ill-considered statement will only alienate, rather than attract those who live without God in their lives.

      JOHN - 2011-02-22 08:32

      Very nice sympathy shown with your idiotic remarks you cold hearted so and so

      WhoGivesAshi - 2011-02-22 08:41

      God had nothing to do with it, Idiot. The world is going to end! Go pray! I will have a beer instead.

      Cynical_BStd - 2011-02-22 08:41

      Warned them New Zealanders not to sin

      Educated - 2011-02-22 08:51

      Maybe it's because god doesn't exist? Have you ever explored that possibility?

      molefeP - 2011-02-22 08:53

      Oh, you tool!

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-02-22 09:11

      Your comments certainly don't match your username. Blerrie moron. Keep your 'end of days' trap SHUT!!!!!!!!! My thoughts are with the people of Christchurch.

      jayde.roux - 2011-02-22 10:02

      I think what he is trying to say is that everyone needs God in their lives to get through these hard times. Everything happens for a reason and God has control over everything. It is the faith in God's work that will bring you through. It is always hard to understand why God does what he does, but we need to believe in him and believe that he has a greater plan for everyone. I think it is quite funny, that when something good happens in someone's life, they are quick to say that they did it, it was thier hard work that made it happen, but as soon as something bad happens then it is God's fault. We all need to have a little bit more compassion for each other and trust that God will uphold us. The best we can do right now is pray for all those who are injured and those families that have lost the ones they loved. J

      Selwyn - 2011-02-22 10:13

      Educated, you are definately UNEDUCATED!!

      lizewiid - 2011-02-22 11:58

      Quite ironic that you call yourself Mr. Clever! Because clearly you are not. God (and i'm talking about Jesus) does not cause these things. God is a God of love! He IS love!

      Donovan Jackson - 2011-02-22 12:33

      This is an extraordinarily bad time to bring up your imaginary friend.

      NodrogBob - 2011-02-23 10:53

      Yes this is a sad event, and many people displaced and loved ones lost and it is a tragedy, and I do hope that they will succeed in finding more people in the rubble, but the attack on LoveJesus is not warranted, and the ones here that call him an idiot and claim he has an imaginary friend better get themselves sorted out with Jesus or they will face eternity in hell. Fact is that Jesus said one of the biggest signs of his 2nd coming will be earthquakes in divers (various) places. This prophetic fact is very real today as the earth experiences anywhere between 200 sometimes up to 400 earthquakes a week, see this site The fact that this happened in Christchurch a second time in months and that they had a swarm of 3000 plus aftershocks between 5 & 6 on the Richter scale up to this present quake, is a clear warning to the Church that his return is at the door.

      lourisa.muller - 2011-02-27 01:34

  • Perfume - 2011-02-22 08:15

    Condolences to the families that have lost loved ones :(....our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Christchurch....this is sad.

  • Crispy_Duck - 2011-02-22 08:23

    Condolences to the injured and family who have lost loved ones.

  • MaLemmer - 2011-02-22 08:24

    Why so long to report the news, News24? Maybe we should call you News12, as this seems to be how long your site is manned!

  • Sandra - 2011-02-22 08:24

    I have a lot of family in Christchurch. i am just praying that they are safe.

  • Nintendo - 2011-02-22 09:25

    Horrible our prayers are with the New Zealanders and the uitlanders

  • TikkieTrots - 2011-02-22 09:27

    Rugby World Cup 2011, have released as statement. "At this time RWC 2011 must take a backseat while Christchurch deals with the aftermath of this tragedy. Our thoughts are very much with the people of the region. It is too early to talk about any implications for the [World Cup] Tournament and any assessment must wait while the rescue and recovery efforts take priority." Christchurch is scheduled to host seven games during the World Cup including Australia's pool matches against Italy and Russia and two quarter-finals.

  • Zanu - 2011-02-22 10:59

    sad sad news. stay strong!

  • Ingie - 2011-02-22 12:22

    What has God got to do with this. You all need to grow up and get a life...if the tables were turned and it was you!!!Like to see that you morons. All these comments everyday revolve either around racisim or religion. We need to be a bit more compassionate towards others. GROW UP!!!Mr Clever Pete and the rest.

      NodrogBob - 2011-02-23 12:05

      Ingie There is only one moron on this page, You!

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