New Zealand PM: Quakes frightening
Wellington - The latest powerful earthquakes to hit the devastated New Zealand city of Christchurch are "frightening and disheartening" for its beleaguered residents, Prime Minister John Key said on Friday.
But, although seismologists have said the tremors will continue to rattle the city for a long time to come, Key said the government's resolve to rebuild Christchurch remains unchanged.
Two quakes of magnitude 5.8 and a series of strong aftershocks hit the city on Friday, sending people fleeing into the streets, closing the international airport and disrupting communications.
They were the latest in a series of tremors which began 15 months ago and have destroyed much of the inner-city, with the most deadly tremor in February killing 181 people.
"It will be frightening and disheartening for the people of Christchurch and Canterbury to be experiencing even more earthquakes of such a magnitude, particularly this close to the holiday season," Key said.
"My heart goes out to the people of Christchurch and Canterbury at this time," he said, referring to the city and the surrounding region.
The cost of the quakes to New Zealand's second-largest city has been estimated at up to NZ$20bn.