BREAKING NEWS: Christchurch, New Zealand: At Least 65 People Reported Killed In Major Earthquake:UPDATED: IRISH HELPLINE LINK

22 Feb

NEWS UPDATE:

A powerful earthquake in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch has killed at least 65 people, while 200 others are feared trapped in damaged buildings.

 ‘People Dead’ In New Zealand Earthquake Play video

More photos: Earthquake photos

Video: ‘People Dead’ In New Zealand Earthquake

:: Pictures: TV3 New Zealand

The country’s prime minister, John Key, revealed the death toll during a statement on the plight of the city of 350,000 people – and warned it may rise.

He told TV1 News: “It is a just a scene of utter devastation. This may be New Zealand’s darkest day.”

Google has set up a website to help distribute information about missing victims.

Buildings have collapsed and vehicles are buried beneath debris, with rescue workers scrambling to help those trapped under rubble left by the 6.3-magnitude quake.

The fire service said the proximity of the quake to the city’s centre meant it had caused more damage than the 7.1-magnitude tremor in Christchurch last September.

“The shake has been a lot worse, maybe not in intensity but as far as damage is concerned, and there are numerous people trapped,” a spokesman said.

A police statement said: “Reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central (city) and persons reported trapped in buildings.”

Those killed are thought to include the occupants of two buses that were crushed by falling debris.

Pavements and roads were cracked and split, and hundreds of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared throughout the city.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said he was on the top floor of the city council building when the quake hit just before 1pm local time, throwing him across the room.

“There will be deaths, there will be a lot of injuries, there will be a lot of heart break in this city,” he said.

“I got down onto the street and there were scenes of great confusion, a lot of very upset people.”

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

The airport was closed and Christchurch Hospital was evacuated. Power and telephone lines were knocked out, and pipes burst, flooding the streets with water.

The multi-storey Pyne Gould Guinness Building, housing more than 200 workers, was among those that collapsed and at least 30 people are said to be trapped inside.

Television pictures showed rescuers, many of them office workers, dragging severely injured people from the rubble.

The US Geological Survey said the centre of the quake was three miles from the city at a relatively shallow depth of 2.5 miles.

A 5.6-magnitude aftershock hit shortly after seven miles east of the city at a depth of 3.7 miles.

City councilman Barry Corbett said: “When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust.

“It was evident straight away that a lot of buildings had gone.”

Christchurch has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks since the previous earthquake struck in September.

That quake caused no deaths, but the city was still repairing the extensive damage.

:: British nationals concerned about relatives or friends affected by the quake can contact 020 7008 1500.

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NEWS UPDATE:

An Irish Government helpline has opened for anyone concerned about family or friends caught up in the earthquake which devastated New Zealand’s South Island.

IRISH: Helpline for quake victim families Enlarge photo

The powerful 6.3-magnitude tremor struck around six miles outside the city of Christchurch, where an estimated 1,000 Irish people live, at around 1pm local time on Tuesday.

More than 65 people have been killed while hundreds of people are believed to be trapped in collapsed buildings.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it was trying to establish if any Irish have been involved.

A spokesman said they are also trying to make contact with Irish nationals registered as being in the area.

Staff at its honorary consulate in New Zealand and the Irish Embassy in Canberra are urgently liaising with New Zealand government officials, local authorities and the emergency services in Christchurch.

“Anyone with concerns regarding family or friends who may be in the Christchurch area can contact the department at 01 4780822 and can also register details on the Department’s travel registration system,” he said.

A link to the system is available on www.dfa.ie.

—————–

LATEST NEWS UPDATE:

AP – People look at a damaged church after a powerful earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, …

Strong earthquake hits New Zealand Slideshow:Strong earthquake hits New Zealand

Earthquakes Video:Australian response to Christchurch quake Australia 7 News

Deadly quake rocks New Zealand Play Video Earthquakes Video:Deadly quake rocks New Zealand Reuters

By JOE MORGAN, Associated Press Joe Morgan, Associated Press :

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – A powerful earthquake struck one of New Zealand’s biggest cities Tuesday at the height of a busy workday, toppling tall buildings and churches, crushing buses and killing at least 65 people in one of the country’s worst natural disasters.

It was the second major quake to hit Christchurch, a city of 350,000, in five months, though Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude temblor caused far more destruction than a more powerful September quake that struck before dawn on a weekend. An unknown number of people, including a dozen visiting Japanese students, were feared trapped in the rubble.

“It is a just a scene of utter devastation,” Prime Minister John Key said after rushing to the city within hours of the quake. He said the death toll was 65, and may rise. “This may be New Zealand’s darkest day,” he told TV One News.

The spire of the city’s well-known stone cathedral toppled into a central square, while video footage showed multistory buildings collapsed in on themselves, and others with walls that had fallen into streets strewn with bricks and shattered concrete.

Sidewalks and roads were cracked and split, while thousands of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared. Groups of people helped victims clutching bleedings wounds, and others were carried to private vehicles in makeshift stretchers fashioned from rugs or bits of debris.

Nathanael Boehm, a web designer, said he was standing near a tram track when the quake struck, sending the eaves of buildings cascading onto the street below.

“It was horrific. People were covered in rubble, covered in several tons of concrete,” Boehm said, adding that he believed some of them had been crushed to death.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker declared a state of emergency and ordered people to evacuate the city center.

Troops were deployed to help people get out and to throw up a security cordon around the stricken area, said Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.

“The government is willing to throw everything it can in the rescue effort,” he said. “Time is going to be of essence.”

The airport was closed, and Christchurch Hospital was briefly evacuated before it was deemed safe and patients were returned. Power and telephone lines were knocked out, and pipes burst, flooding the streets with water. Some cars parked on the street were buried under rubble.

Some people were stuck in office towers and firefighters climbed extension ladders to pluck people trapped on roofs to safety. A crane lifted a team of rescuers on a platform to one group of survivors in a high-rise. Plumes of gray smoke drifted into the air at several points around the city from fires burning in the rubble.

Key held an emergency Cabinet meeting then rushed to the stricken city to observe the scene.

He said eight or nine buildings had collapsed, and that officials were working as fast as they can to free an unknown number of people who were trapped.

Some of those stuck were thought to be visiting Japanese students who called their parents back home to say they were in a collapsed building, a Japanese official said. Nine students and two teachers from the Toyama College of Foreign Languages had been rescued, but another 12 students were unaccounted for and could still be trapped, said the official from Toyama Prefecture, who declined to provide his name because he was not authorized to give public statements.

New Zealand police said in a statement that reports of fatalities included that two buses had been crushed by falling buildings.

Gary Moore said he and 19 other colleagues were trapped in their twelfth floor office after the stairwell collapsed in the quake. He did not know if people on other floors were trapped.

“We watched the cathedral collapse out our window while we were holding onto the walls,” Moore said. “Every aftershock sends us rushing under the desks. It’s very unnerving but we can clearly see there are other priorities out the window. There has been a lot of damage and I guess people are attending to that before they come and get us.”

The multistory Pyne Gould Guinness Building, housing more than 200 workers, collapsed and an unknown number of people are trapped inside. Television pictures showed rescuers, many of them office workers, dragging severely injured people from the rubble. Many had blood streaming down their faces. Screams could be heard from those still trapped.

Parker, the mayor, said he was on the top floor of the city council building when the quake hit just before 1 p.m. local time, throwing him across the room.

“I got down onto the street and there were scenes of great confusion, a lot of very upset people,” he said. “I know of people in our building who are injured and I’ve had some reports of serious injuries throughout the city.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor was centered 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the city at a depth of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). Two large aftershocks — one magnitude 5.6 and another 5.5 — hit the city within two hours, and officials warned people to stay away from damaged buildings because of the danger of further collapses.

“When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust,” said city councilman Barry Corbett, who was on one of the top floors of the city council building when the quake struck. “It was evident straight away that a lot of buildings had gone.”

A search and rescue team was being flown in from Australia to help in the recovery, and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she had offered Key any other support he requested.

The USGS said the latest quake was part of the “aftershock sequence” following the 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Sept. 4 last year. That quake wrecked hundreds of buildings, inflicted an estimated 4 billion New Zealand dollars ($3 billion) in damage, but caused no deaths.

A strong aftershock in December caused further damage to buildings. The city, considered a tourist center, was still rebuilding from those quakes when Tuesday’s temblor hit.

The USGS said the latest quake hit “significantly closer to the main population center of Christchurch” than the September quake, which was centered 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of city.

“The critical issue with this earthquake was that the epicenter was at shallow depth under Christchurch, so many people were within 10 to 20 kilometers (6 to 12 miles) of the fault rupture,” said Gary Gibson, a seismologist at Australia’s Melbourne University.

“Its effect depends on how close it is, and ground shaking will be severe within 10 to 20 kilometers of the rupture,” he said.

___

Associated Press writers Sean Yoong in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Jay Alabaster in Tokyo contributed to this report.

—————

A powerful earthquake has killed at least 65 people and caused major damage in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch.

‘People Dead’ In New Zealand Earthquake Play video

More photos: Earthquake photos

Video: Deadly quake rocks New Zealand

:: Pictures: TV3 New Zealand

The country’s prime minister, John Key, revealed the death toll during a statement on the plight of the city of 350,000 people – and warned it may rise.

Google has set up a website to help distribute information about missing victims.

Buildings have collapsed and vehicles buried beneath debris, with rescue workers scrambling to help those trapped under rubble left by the 6.3 magnitude quake.

The fire service said the proximity of the quake to the city’s centre meant it had caused more damage than the 7.1 magnitude tremor in Christchurch last September.

“The shake has been a lot worse, maybe not in intensity but as far as damage is concerned, and there are numerous people trapped,” a spokesman said.

A police statement said: “Reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central (city) and persons reported trapped in buildings.”

Those killed are thought to include the occupants of two buses that were crushed by falling debris.

Pavements and roads were cracked and split, and hundreds of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared throughout the city.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said he was on the top floor of the city council building when the quake hit just before 1pm local time, throwing him across the room.

“There will be deaths, there will be a lot of injuries, there will be a lot of heart break in this city,” he said.

“I got down onto the street and there were scenes of great confusion, a lot of very upset people.”

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

The airport was closed and Christchurch Hospital was evacuated. Power and telephone lines were knocked out, and pipes burst, flooding the streets with water.

The multi-storey Pyne Gould Guinness Building, housing more than 200 workers, was among those that collapsed and at least 30 people are said to be trapped inside.

Television pictures showed rescuers, many of them office workers, dragging severely injured people from the rubble.

The US Geological Survey said the centre of the quake was three miles from the city at a relatively shallow depth of 2.5 miles.

A 5.6-magnitude aftershock hit shortly after seven miles east of the city at a depth of 3.7 miles.

City councilman Barry Corbett said: “When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust.

“It was evident straight away that a lot of buildings had gone.”

Christchurch has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks since the previous earthquake struck in September.

That quake caused no deaths, but the city was still repairing the extensive damage.

More photos: Earthquake photos

Britons describe NZ quake ‘chaos’

Britons tell of earthquake ‘chaos’

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