Monday, February 21, 2011

Christchurch, New Zealand's South Island Rocked by 2nd Quake in Less Than 6 Months

For the second time in less than 6 months, the Canterbury region of New Zealand's South Island was struck by a powerful earthquake.

Prime Minister John Key had confirmed that at least 65 people were killed on Tuesday when a Magnitude 6.3 quake that struck just before 1 PM local time. Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said it was likely the death toll would rise.

While the temblor wasn't as strong as the September 2010 quake, the epicenter apparently was closer to the surface and only 10km outside of the city center of Christchurch. Buildings collapsed onto cars and buses on the streets and there were at least 30 people trapped when the 4-story Pine Gould Corp office building collapsed.

Christchurch's Cathedral, already damaged from the September 2010 quake, had its spire knocked off in the Tuesday afternoon. Although power to parts of Christchurch and elsewhere in Canterbury had been partially restored,

Both domestic and international flights were grounded throughout New Zealand in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. New Zealand's national air traffic control center is headquartered in Christchurch and remained closed after the earthquake while the facilities were being inspected for damage.

Kiwi Rail has also shut down service on the South Island after the quake derailed a coal train in suburban Christchurch. The return trip of the TranzAlpine express passenger train was cancelled until the line between Greymouth and Christchurch could be inspected for damage, with more than passengers staying overnight in Greymouth. Although there were scattered reports of damage to tracks and bridges in the Christchurch area, there were no injuries to passenger or personnel.

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