LOS ANGELES (LALATE) – The death toll on today’s New Zealand earthquake in Christchurch is rising. Local news reports that the three New Zealand earthquakes in the last twenty-four hours are related to the 7.1 earthquake of September 2010. While damage assessments and number of fatalities are still be counted, here is the latest news as of 7 PM PST.
Christchurch, close to the epicenter of today’s earthquake, was significantly damaged. The Provincial Chambers building gave way, collapsing on persons trapped inside. The New Zealand Hard reports the face of the Sumner cliff collapsed, sending boulders onto vehicles. Local supermarkets were closed. Sections south of Christchurch are reportedly worse hit. Chasms caused by liquefaction are being spotted.
After an initial quake, the local emergency telephone call number of 111 suffered any outage. TV3 news reported that upwards of two hundred people were trapped inside one local building – the Pyne Gould Guinness building.
Auckland Airport spokesman Richard Llewellyn has halted flights departing New Zealand. Part of the issue is that the national control center is located in Christchurch. As of this evening “they are checking to make sure it is all okay, and until then the airways system has been closed.”
“For the moment planes are landing but no planes are departing,” he told NZPA.
On Radio New Zealand tonight, University of Canterbury Earth Sciences Professor John Townend said “This earthquake struck much closer to the city so what we have seen today is a much closer and shallower shake. With many buildings weakened we are seeing much more damage.”
Fairfax Media is also reporting that 150 are trapped inside the Pyne Gould Business building. An airport tower has collapsed locally, the Lyttelton tunnel is shut down. GNS duty seismologist Bill Fry told the news site that today’s quake, because of its shallow depth, had a far greater impact on the region than last year’s earthquake on September 4.
Prime Minister John Key issued the following statement to news tonight; “My heart and thoughts and prayers would go to those families. 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.” Key added that “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.”
Telecom reportedly says its phone networks are damaged. In its statement, its says tonight “Some network sites have been badly damaged and are not working, and others are operating on battery backup power.”
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker still has no update on the death toll, while local news has reported spotting fatalities being removed from debris.”I’m deeply, deeply concerned about lives,” Parker told Radio New Zealand today.