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Buildings Collapse, 2 Injured In Powerful Nz Quake

Christchurch: Chimneys and walls crumbled to the ground, roads cracked in half and residents were knocked off their feet as a powerful magnitude-7.1 earthquake rocked New Zealand's South Island early Saturday. The prime minister said
PTI September 04, 2010 22:23 IST
PTI
Christchurch: Chimneys and walls crumbled to the ground, roads cracked in half and residents were knocked off their feet as a powerful magnitude-7.1 earthquake rocked New Zealand's South Island early Saturday. The prime minister said it was a miracle no one was killed.   (Watch)

Only two serious injuries were reported from the quake, which shook thousands of people awake when it struck at 4:35 am (local time) near the southern city of Christchurch. There were reports of some people trapped inside damaged buildings, though none appeared to be crushed by rubble, and a few looters broke into some damaged shops in the city of 400,000.

Power was cut across the region, roads were blocked by debris, and gas and water supplies were disrupted, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said. Chimneys and walls of older buildings were reduced to rubble, and Parker warned continuing aftershocks could cause masonry to fall from damaged buildings.




"We're all feeling scared, we've just had some significant aftershocks," he told TV One News. "Tonight we're just people in the face of a massive natural disaster, trying to help each other ... and we're grateful we haven't lost a life."

 State geological agency GNS Science reported 29 aftershocks in the 14 hours following the quake, ranging in strength from magnitude 3.7 to 5.4.

A state of emergency was declared and army troops were on standby to assist after the quake, which was centered 30 km west of Christchurch, according to GNS Science. No tsunami alert was issued.

Prime Minister John Key, who flew to Christchurch to inspect the damage, said it was "an absolute miracle" that no one had died.

He warned it could be months before the full extent of the damage was known, but said initial assessments suggested it could cost at least USD 1.4 billion to repair.

As evening approached and a damaged historic building near the city center burst into flames, officials ordered residents to stay in their homes until tomorrow morning. Parker said the curfew would help prevent people from going near about 120 inner-city buildings that were badly damaged. (AP)