'Significant' Christchurch hotels collapsed: Carter

05:08, Feb 22 2011
JOHN CARTER: Understood a number of "significant hotels" had collapsed in Christchurch.
JOHN CARTER: Civil Defence, army and police would look to evacuate the city centre and cordon it off as soon as possible.

Civil Defence Minister John Carter says he understood a number of "significant hotels" had collapsed in Christchurch.

But it was not clear how many people were in the buildings at the time.

Carter said reports of damage were focused on Christchurch city rather than outlying areas right now.

bob parker std
BOB PARKER: Declared a state of emergency for the city.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English confirmed the Government would be discussing offers of international assistance this evening.

That included offers from the United States and there was expertise in Japan.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had also offered further search and rescue personnel, which has been accepted.


john hamilton std
CIVIL DEFENCE RESPONSE: Civil Defence head John Hamilton speaking from the Beehive bunker.

English said "you can take it as read that the Government is gearing up for something larger and more devastating than the September earthquake".

Civil Defence director John Hamilton earlier confirmed there were fatalities but next of kin had to be notified and victims identified.

Civil Defence, army and police would look to evacuate the town centre and cordon it off as soon as possible, Carter said.


The Government is working as rapidly as it can to get welfare centres established. It is hoping to have some of those established tonight but there are communication difficulties and that can not be confirmed yet.

Carter confirmed that schools have all been closed and teachers are staying with pupils till they are collected by parents.

Rescue personnel would work through the night and "continue on continuously" till all the buildings had been gone through and evacuated.

Carter said the most important message he wanted to get out was that the Government would give all the support that was needed and agencies around the country would fill any gaps in Christchurch.

"But immediately people need to make sure they are safe, make sure their families are safe...that their friends and families are all taken care of."

People should where possible move out of the area where there was significant damage, in the city centre, and longer term people should look to leave the city. There would be a continuous series of aftershocks and for those who had lived through the last few months that would be traumatic.


Mayor of Christchurch Bob Parker had declared a state of emergency for the city, English says.

English is briefing media now on the outcome of an emergency Cabinet meeting.

He said there was was deep concern at the devastation in the city.


Two urban search and rescue teams have been flown into Christchurch from other parts of the country.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had also offered further search and rescue personnel, which has been accepted.

"This earthquake has caused huge damage and there are reports of serious injuries and loss of life."

There would be another emergency Cabinet meeting this evening.

English said he was still unable to confirm reports of fatalities. Police had mobilised their disaster identification team and details would be made available as they came to hand.


Christchurch Hospital had suffered "reasonably minimal damage" and was open.

Air ambulances had transported some patients to other centres and other South Island hospitals were clearing their capacity so they could take casualties if needed.

The Government had been assured by Transpower that they had the grid up and running again after power went out to parts of the city.

The local power company was working as fast as they could to restore power though some parts of the network were seriously damaged.

Christchurch airport remained closed but runways were being assessed and the Lyttleton tunnel was still closed.

Phone lines were operational but there was a significant overload.

On the cost of the earthquake, English said "we are covered for this as a separate earthquake because the reinsurance was put in place after the last ones".

"My advice is that it is a new event. That means the Government reinsurance was back in place and any claims would be regarded as new claims."


Labour leader Phil Goff is waiting at the cordon of the levelled Pyne Gould Guinness building. He said at least 30 people were feared trapped inside the building and at least one person was killed.

Families were congregating at the cordon waiting for news, he said.

"It's not a sense of panic, it's a sense of calm, almost," he said.

Rescue crews were using crowbars and hammers to free those trapped. A crane was also on site.

"There is concrete right above their heads, they are putting their lives at risk.

"People are hugely impressed with the rescue teams.

"They are waiting at the edge of the cordon, they are waiting to evacuate people as they can be rescued. People go about the job as efficiently and as effectively as they can."

Goff was waiting at the airport when the quake struck.

''I knew it was a serious quake - I knew I was in a modern building but just as the quake was happening I was thinking, my God what's happening in the centre of town with the older buildings?"

He hitched a lift into the city centre. ''Until I walked through the city I didn't realise how devastating it had been.

''And people that I have talked to said this was the more violent of the quakes."


PM John Key has left the Beehive and is on his way to Christchurch, accompanied by a member of the diplomatic protection squad.

He had earlier convened an emergency session of Cabinet following the quake which struck the city this afternoon.

Key said there was substantial, widespread damage in the city.

He said his "heart and thoughts and prayers" would go to families who had lost loved ones in the quake.

"I think we all knew that we were very lucky and blessed when the first earthquake took place that it didn't claim any lives. If it's the case that people have lost their lives in this earthquake then I think all New Zealanders would mourn with a heavy heart.''

Speaking from the National Crisis Management centre in the Beehive, Carter said hospitals around the South Island have been cleared to absorb a surge of patients from the quake.

United States Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, in Christchurch with a a large delegation of US officials, is understood to be safe.

Dr Campbell has been in the country for the New Zealand-US Partnership forum at the city's AMI Stadium.

Earlier this afternoon Parliament gathered for a shortened session to hear from Key and other party leaders, before adjourning.

Key had said at that stage the Beehive's National Crisis Management centre was in limited contact with Christchurch.

"Obviously this earthquake has taken place at a time where people have been going about their daily businesses. We are doing everything we can to make sure that people are safe, evacuating from the central city."

Key added: "Obviously, it's an extremely worrying situation for the people of Canterbury and will have significantly unnerved them. And obviously our sympathies and thoughts go to the people of Christchurch."

He said there would be a "major" urban search and rescue effort.

Key had been in contact with Mayor Bob Parker by text message.

Police Minister Judith Collins said she had spoken with the Commissioner and deputy commissioner of Police.

"It's a very difficult time because it's during the daytime and they don't yet have any word on anything other than that they're trying to cope with an extraordinarily difficult situation right now."

Labour deputy leader Annette King said: "It's going to need another big effort, and this House stands together."