Powerful earthquakes rock Christchurch

Last updated 20:45 13/06/2011

John Key on the latest Christchurch earthquakes

Christchuch Quake 13/06
DON SCOTT/The Press Zoom
Timeball station, as seen from the air.

House damaged in aftershocks

Liquefaction following June 13 Christchurch earthquake

Backyard pool during aftershock

Slideshow5.5 and 6.0 aftershock in Christchurch

View 5.5 aftershock in Christchurch in a larger map

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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GNS Science is warning of more aftershocks in coming days as thousands of people face a night without power after magnitude 6.0 and 5.5 earthquakes rocked Christchurch.

Send your news tips, photos and video to newstips@stuff.co.nz

The magnitude 5.5 quake struck at 1pm, 10 kilometres east of Christchurch at Taylor's Mistake beach, at a depth of 11 kilometres, and sent people scrambling for cover. It was followed at 2.20pm by a more powerful magnitude 6 quake, centred 10 kilometres southeast of the city and 9km underground.

At least 40 people were injured in the earthquakes today, including two who were injured seriously, Radio New Zealand reported. At least ten people were taken to Christchurch Hospital with injuries due to falling building material after the 1pm quake.

Other residents from the devastated city cried in the streets and hugged their children.

Police said there had been no deaths.

Lines company Orion said 20,000 homes and businesses in eastern Christchurch were without power at 7pm. It was unlikely power would be restored to them overnight.

The company said crews were making good progress in restoring electricity to the city. The earthquakes had initially knocked out power to 56,000 homes and business.

Canterbury District Health Board advised that all water must now be boiled and residents should use chemical toilets or portaloos.

Christchurch City Council has set up a welfare centre at Cowles Stadium, where beds are available, for people who have had to leave their homes.

The quakes are the latest in a series of dozens of aftershocks to hit Canterbury following the devastating February 22 earthquake, where 182 people died, and a damaging magnitude 7.1 earthquake last September. The February 22 quake measured magnitude 6.3 and left 100,000 homes damaged - 10,000 beyond repair.

Christchurch's CBD was left in ruins, with 900 buildings - many in what has become known as the 'red zone' - expected to be demolished.


"We stand beside them, we are committed to rebuilding the city," Key said.

Key said Christchurch people were stoic people would regroup.

Key said Mayor Bob Parker was considering whether to declare a state of local civil defence emergency but the Government did not consider today's events serious enough to declare a national state of emergency.

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Parker said it was "a serious situation" despite not declaring another state of emergency with power unlikely to be restored to the 50,000 who had lost it until tomorrow. The city's water infrastructure was also damaged. "Look after yourselves big time tonight," he said.

Today's quakes would "almost certainly" be considered a new event by insurer the Earthquake Commission, Key said.

The earthquakes were another blow to Christchurch residents, who found them frightening and upsetting.

"Quite frankly I think they're all over this and they want the sense of normality to return ... my heart really goes out to them."

It could have changed the areas that can be built on but too soon to stay.

Key said to demonstrate the significance of today's quakes, the magnitude six quake this afternoon registered an eight on the Mercalli scale  which measures the intensity of earth quakes. By comparison the February 22 earthquake was a nine.

Following today's second quake, Parker said: "Thank God we had evacuated the red zone."

"We are being enveloped with dust. It is very very scary," Parker said.

Civil Defence has again set up a headquarters at the Christchurch Art Gallery where shaking was so violent those inside feared the large glass windows would burst.

As many as 50,000 homes are without power and authorities are urging residents to conserve water due to fears of further significant damage to the infrastructure.

Canterbury District Commander Dave Cliff urged residents to check on friends and neighbours, especially the elderly.

There was significant traffic congestion and drivers were told to avoid Ferry Road.

Civil Defence was setting up its headquarters in tents in Cranmer Square, near the evacuated Art Gallery.


GNS Science said residents could expect more aftershocks within the magnitude 4 to 5 range in the coming days due to the two latest quakes.

Today's magnitude 6.0 and 5.5 shakes were within range of forecasted aftershocks, and were centered on the coast and a short distance south of the fault that ruptured on February 22.

"These aftershocks were within the existing Canterbury aftershock zone and were within probabilities," GNS Natural Hazards Research Platform manager Kelvin Berryman said.

"This size of events is likely to produce its own aftershock sequence, therefore rejuvenating aftershock activity at least in the short term."

Scientists have said people should expect an elevated earthquake activity for many months since the magnitude 7.1 quake hit in September last year.


More masonry fell from the landmark ChristChurch Catheral and there were reports of other buildings - in Lichfield St, in Latimer Square and at the corner of Stanmore Road and Worcester Street - falling down.

A house has fallen from the top of Clifton Hill into Peacock's Valley below as scores of people attempt to leave the seaside suburb of Sumner. Many residents have turned their power and water mains off before leaving the suburb which bore the brunt of today's earthquakes.

A crack through Scarborough Hill has seen the main road to Taylors Mistake cut off as emergency services fear more rockfall could destabilise other clifftop homes. One resident said the area was decimated and that damage to their homes was "far worse" than February's 6.3 magnitude quake.

Two men who had been salvaging windows from the St Johns Church in the central city were reported to have received cuts and bruises and were taken to hospital.

St John staff member Alistair Drye said the two men were okay, but shaken.

"The walls fell down around them," he said.

The church had been severely damaged in February's earthquake and was set to be demolished.

Walls around the outside of the church had "fallen and crumbled" during today's aftershocks, while the roof had collapsed onto the organ and the front of the church, he said.

The tower of Lyttelton's hiostoric Timeball Station fell in today's second quake.

Using binoculars, Lyttelton resident Peter Evans said he could see the remains of the Timeball Station from his back garden.

"You can see the tower has come down. The back roof looks like its collapsed into the building. The top of the tower has fallen off and is lying on the ground. The building has collapsed really."

Stonemason Mark Whyte was employed to take down the Timeball Station to see if it can be rebuilt. He was up a crane when the first aftershock hit. He said immediately went into Christchurch to check on other heritage buildings he is in charge of dismantling.

Asti Renaut had returned home and was chatting to a neighbour across the fence when the second earthquake struck.

"It felt like I was surfing on the lawn," she said.

Dominos Pizza assistant manager Renee Murray said Stanmore St buildings, in Christchurch, had also partially collapsed.

"All the shops have fallen down,'' she said. "Half of the roof has fallen in. They have not fully collapsed.''

Roads and bridges have been closed due to further damage and widespread liquefaction. And there have been reports of serious rock falls at Shag Rock, Boulder Bay and other coastal areas.

In the Liggins St area of Horseshoe Lake, the ground was bubbling with sand spurting out of the ground, as happened in the first two major quakes, a resident said.


Canterbury police communication manager Stephen Hill said police moved to evacuate the red zone after the first quake.

A St John spokesperson said several ambulances were operating in the city and others were on standby.

Firefighters rescued two people from St John's Church in central Christchurch, fire communications spokesman Iain Lynn said.

Fire Service spokesman Dan Coward said there had been countless callouts to burst pipes, especially in the Sumner area where many locals were "freaked out".

He said fire crews were investigating a number of suspected fires and the smell of smoke in various sites around the city.

Flights have resumed in and out of Christchurch Airport but Jetstar and Qantas flights are still cancelled due to volcanic ash from the Chilean volcanic eruption.

Christchurch Airport's CEO Jim Boult said engineers have assessed the runways and terminal and there is no damage.


Significant rockfalls have been seen in Sumner and parts of Banks Peninsula and land and cellphone lines were down in many of the beachside suburbs and in the Heathcote Valley.

Liquefaction had been reported across the eastern suburbs and as far away as Kaiapoi, which was hard hit in the September quake.

Sirens were sounding throughout the inner city and helicopters were flying over the red zone.

Telephone networks reported lines overloading and asked users to text rather than call. Telecom, Telstra and Vodafone all reported congestion.

One Pak 'n Save Wainoni worker said items had been thrown from the shelves and the floor was littered with food and broken glass.

"It was pretty freaky. It felt like it was right under the supermarket," she said.

Sumner Supervalue supermarket is closed while staff clear fallen stock.

Residents in Beckenham and Merivale said crockery smashed and shelves were emptied.


All staff at the Art Gallery, currently being used by earthquake and council officials, were evacuated.

Students at Burnside High, Christ's College, St Margarets, and St Andrews College, were also sent out of buildings to the safety of playing fields.

There were evacuations at Canterbury University, Westfield Riccarton mall and Pak 'n Save Wainoni.

Staff at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority have evacuated their Papanui building and won't return until a structural engineer has assessed it, a civil defence spokesman said.

Canterbury University law student Jennifer Jones was on the second floor of the university library when the quake hit. "It started off not too bad but then all the books started flying off the shelves. You've got 11 floors above you so everyone got out pretty quickly."

Riccarton mall was evacuated after the earthquake at 1pm today with reports of fallen roof tiles and raised floors in the building.

No injuries were reported as several thousand people were forced outside.

Several Westfield employees were in the building when the magnitude 6 quake struck at 2:20pm but were unhurt.

Greymouth pair Matt Adams and Crystal Graham-Hayes were shopping in Amazon when the magnitude-5.5 quake hit at 1pm.

''All the lights started shaking to the ground. I freaked out a little bit,'' Adams said.

''One of our mates [in Greymouth] texted before and said they felt it a little bit.''

The pair had not experienced a Christchurch quake before but Graham-Hayes felt they tempted fate this time.

''About ten minutes before the shakes I turned to [Adams] and said 'We haven't felt one yet' and then it happened.

''Watching everyone trying to run down the escalators that go up was a bit interesting. Everyone was pushing everyone out of the way trying to get through. Very scary.''

Configure Express Gym manager Janet Peterson said shoppers' reactions varied.

''It was a mixture. Some people were used to them but others you could see blankets being wrapped around people and people physically shaken up.''

Alena Smith, a retail assistant at fashion store Bling, had a near miss with a falling lightbulb.

''I saw a lightbulb just fall straight down in front of me. There was a bit of shattered glass.''

A spokeswoman for Westfield said the mall would not reopen today.


Press reporter Marc Greenhill was in Brooker Ave, Burwood, when the 6.0 struck.

He was talking to one of the residents who was trying to clean liquefaction out of his lounge from the 1pm quake when the second one struck.

"The road split down the middle and seven or eight mini geysers spurted liquefaction and water onto the road."

Within a minute the whole street was flooded and several cars were trapped.

Water levels rose above the gutter and across the pavement and up into driveways.

A woman came screaming out of her home as liquefaction silt and water poured out into gardens.

A witness near the Lyttelton Tunnel said the quake dislodged rocks from the Port Hills above, some which looked to be as big as car tyres.

Central Christchurch resident Jon Hicks said "everything come out of the fridge" during the quake.

Other items had fallen over inside his home but power and water supplies were still working as normal, he said.

Anthony Surynt was working in an electrical workshop in Sydenham, close to the CBD, when the quake hit. He says it came on really fast and lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds. "It was quite quick. I wouldn't be surprised if another building came down."

He says it didn't feel as big as the February 22 quake but compared it to the September quake. Surynt ran out of the building as soon as he felt the earthquake, fearful of all the electrical equipment in the workshop. He has now gone back to work.

Christchurch east MP Aaron Gilmore said he was just getting out of the car when the quake hit and couldn't work out what was going on.

"I could see the ground rise on the road, it was a bit freaky."

There was cracking in the wall of his North New Brighton office that hadn't been there in the last quake and more liquefaction and water.

"I was here for that last 5.5 quake and it definitely felt bigger," Gilmore said.

Lorraine Hill, who lives in Taylor's Mistake, said she was thrown out of bed by the earthquake's force.

"It was enough to throw me on the floor and have great difficulty  getting up," she said.

"It's just our nerves, we haven't had one that big for so long."

Christchurch resident Amy Brown was home alone when the latest quake hit.

She said she was frightened and ran to a door frame for cover.

"It was like February. Things started to fall out of the pantry."

She urgently got in contact with her husband, and both checked on their children at school.

Meika Gale was working at Buns Bakery in Woolston when the quake hit and says some of the roof collapsed into the shop. She says some drinks fell out of the chiller but there isn't any major damage.

She says it was a "really violent shake" that lasted about 30 seconds.

Meika was preoccupied with trying to get hold of her former partner who is looking after their four-year-old daughter but phone lines are restricted.

Twitter user Nathanael Boehm said his two level house "swayed heaps". "Was up and ready to leap out a window if it started coming down.

"That would have been bloody close to a 6 magnitude quake. Heart going mental. Hope everyone ok!"

Other Twitter users also reported smashed items in their houses and car alarms being set of by the aftershock.

Richard Derham reported walking through the Arts Centre carpark and seeing "a couple of hundred cars start dancing".


1pm, 10km south-east of Christchurch, 11km, 5.5;

1.08pm, 10km south-east of Christchurch, 11km, 4.4;

1.28pm, 10km south-east of Christchurch, 9km, 3.4;

2.20pm, 10km south-east of Christchurch, 9km, 6.0;

2.40pm, 10km south-east of Christchurch, 10km, 4.9;

2.50pm, 10km south-east of Christchurch, 6km, 3.4;

3.08pm, 20km east of Christchurch, 8km, 3.7;

3.33pm, 20km south-east of Christchurch, 5km, 3.5;

4.10pm, 20km south-east of Christchurch, 8km, 3.5;

4.23pm, 10km south-east of Christchurch, 8km, 3.6;

4.27pm, 10km south-east of Christchurch, 8.8km, 3.3;

4.40pm, 20km south-east of Christchurch, 6km, 3.6;

4.56pm, 10km south of Christchurch, 5km, 3.5;

6.11pm, 20km south-east of Christchurch, 9km, 3.3;

6.50pm, 10km east of Christchurch, 5km, 3.0;

7.21pm, 20km south-east of Christchurch, 2.9;

7.29pm, 20km south-east of Christchurch, 3.5;

7.42pm, 20km east of Christchurch, 3.7;

7.59pm, 20km south-east of Christchurch, 3.2;

8.28pm, 20km sou-east of Christchurch, 4.0;

8.45pm, 20km south-east of Christchurch 3.4;

9.05pm, 10km south of Christchurch, 2.9;

9.52pm, 20km east of Christchurch, 2.8;

Magnitude 5.5 earthquake footage:

Latimer Square:

- The Press and Stuff


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