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Christchurch quake: Death toll may top 200

Tuesday 22 Feb 2011 1:43 p.m.

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By 3news.co.nz staff

Christchurch has been rocked by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, sending the region into pandemonium again, not six months after the September 4 quake.

The quake struck at 12.51pm and was at a depth of 5km, 10km southeast of Christchurch.

There have been reports of significant damage, most notably the Christchurch Cathedral.

To report missing people call the police helpline on 0800 779 997


11.35pm – There are reports the relief shelter at Haglee Park is full and is turning people away.

10.55pm – Rescuers say more bodies are likely to be pulled from the rubble of the CTV building which collapsed today.

10.40pm – The 33rd aftershock hit Christchurch at 10.18pm tonight. The 4.0 tremor struck at a depth of 5km and within 5km of Lyttelton.

10.30pm – The death toll is already the second-highest in a New Zealand earthquake – outranked only by the 256 people who died in the violent 7.9 quake in 1931 in Hawke’s Bay.

10.27pm – There are reports at least 125 people have been rescued from the rubble throughout the region this evening, however just as many are still estimated to be trapped.

Mayor Bob Parker said tonight more than 100 people were still trapped in about six sites around the city, but it is possible more are trapped in individual houses.

10.24pm – An Australian team with specialised listening devices and cutting equipment will bolster search and rescue efforts in Christchurch from tomorrow morning.

A 40-strong team from New South Wales will leave Australia tonight and begin operations first thing tomorrow morning.

They will be joined by 33 more staff later tomorrow morning.

10.18pm – Residents are being asked not to run their showers or flush their toilets as pumping stations have sustained damage along with pipelines.

10.16pm – The Christchurch harbour has been closed for at least 24 hours. Some wharves have sustained serious damage. Transpower is reporting that all supply is back in service. Orion is still restoring power where possible.

10.13pm – Over 2,500 people have turned up at the Ellerslie Flower Show tents in Christchurch, but there are only 1,500 meals available. Organisers fear they may have to start turning people away.

In regards to the show, a decision on whether it will go ahead will be made in due course, organisers say.

10.07pm – To report missing people please call the police helpline on 0800 779 997.

10.05pm – See 3 News reporter Simon Shepherd’s report on how the Christchurch suburbs are coping with a second massive quake.

10.01pm – There are reports from Cashmere that some houses in the lower area of the suburb have been broken into and burgled.

9.59pm – Air New Zealand is offering domestic flights to and from Christchurch from any point on the domestic service for $50 one-way – until 8am on Friday morning.

The flights can be booked via the Air NZ website and call centre.

In addition, Air NZ will operate a return Auckland-Christchurch service tomorrow using a Boeing 747-400, with seats available at the $50 fare.

9.57pm – Hundreds of doctors from around the world were in Christchurch for a conference when the quake struck. Some are offering to help the injured. More than 600 delegates, including 439 Australians, were at a urology conference in the Christchurch Convention Centre when the quake struck.

All have been evacuated and are reportedly safe.

9.52pm – Twelve Japanese students from a foreign language school have been reported missing in the rubble of a Christchurch building.

The Sankei Shimburn newspaper said two Japanese teachers and nine students were rescued, but 12 students are missing in the Peterborough St building.

9.51pm – Civil Defence says water supplies have been disrupted throughout most of the city. Residents are asked to collect rainwater in buckets if possible, or to boil water before drinking – if power is available.

9.50pm – Social media sites are being used for communication purposes as phone lines remain down. Read the story here.

9.46pm – There have been 21 aftershocks greater than magnitude 4 since the initial earthquake, and four larger than magnitude 5.

9.43pm – 3 News has received unconfirmed reports the death toll could rise from 65 to between 200 and 400.

9.30pm – A central city resident says she won’t be surprised if there is an exodus from Christchurch. Read the story here.

9.21pm – Two staff members of The Press newspaper in Christchurch were trapped in the company’s building tonight. Fairfax Media chief executive Allen Williams says four staffers were trapped during the afternoon but two had since been located and rescued. Emergency services are still trying to free the remaining staff.

Despite damage to the building, the paper plans to print tomorrow.

9.18pm – 3 News reporter Rachel Tiffen is from Christchurch and says returning there is like “coming home to a war zone”.

9.17pm – Fifty people remain trapped at the CTV building. 150 to 200 rescue workers are presently working to rescue those alive and potentially retrieve bodies. A makeshift morgue has been set up nearby.

9.12pm – A Facebook group has been set up offering ‘shake-free’ accommodation for Christchurch residents without a home. The group has been active for about 90 minutes and already has 100 offers of hospitality. To view the group click here.

9.04pm – Telecom says Civil Defence and safety considerations severely restrict the ability of network technicians to carry out physical work overnight to restore broken network connections. All central city cell sites that are operational have been connected to generators to keep them running overnight.

8.55pm – Sixteen-year-old Micah Neville, whose family lost their home in the September 4 quake, says his family have now lost the new home they moved into.

“The new house is gone,” he told 3 News. “I’m staying at a mate’s and mum and dad are at someone else’s house. It’s a mess down here.”

Micah was at school when the quake hit and says everybody was “screaming and crying”.

“It’s the weirdest thing when everything shakes… the streets are flooded with water everywhere.”

8.50pm – Mobile network 2degrees says the network has escaped the quake largely unscathed. But some damaged utilities have been running on battery power that will run short overnight. 2degreees says customers should expect to be without some mobile service this evening and tomorrow as engineers fix the damages.

8.46pm – The Transpower main transmission grid reports no major issues.

8.42pm – Christchurch residents without electricity after this afternoon’s earthquake are being warned not to expect their power to be restored tonight.

Up to 80 percent of customers lost power when the quake hit just. Energy company Orion Energy says it hopes to get 50 percent of city power on by nightfall.

8.22pm – Civil Defence is has reiterated the welfare centre at Addington Raceway is closed due to high numbers. Residents are asked to go to other centres at the following locations:

  • Burnside School, Papanui High School, Lyttelton Recreation Centre, Brooklands Community Centre and Akaroa Senior School.

8.18pm – Fifty people are trapped in the Christchurch TV building, six have been rescued, TVNZ are reporting.

8.11pm – Civil Defence has declared a State of Emergency and says all schools and early childhood services in Christchurch City are closed until further notice.

8.03pm – Fonterra says no dairy milking seems to have been affected by the quake, but there have been power outages and rock falls on various farms.

7.59pm – Aftershocks continue to put Christchurch on edge tonight. A magnitude 5.0 tremor struck at a depth of 12km, 10km south east of Lyttelton at 7.43pm.

7.56pm – The quake has disrupted the tour schedule of visiting international bands and artists.

American hard rockers Queens of the Stone Age were forced to postpone today’s sold out show at Wellington’s Town Hall; their Christchurch show on Thursday has been cancelled. US rockers The Melvins and High on Fire were in Christchurch when the quake but are unharmed.

7.55pm – A seismologists are warning the Christchurch quake has increased the likelihood of a large earthquake hitting Wellington. Read the story here.

7.41pm – The 27th aftershock has hit Christchurch tonight at 6.59pm. It was a magnitude 5.0 tremor, at a depth of 5km, 10km southeast of Lyttelton.

7.38pm – Christchurch Airport is to remain closed tonight to all but emergency and aid flights.

7.30pm – Police say the quake death toll is expected to rise from the current count of 65. Police say the immediate focus for emergency services is rescuing people trapped in buildings. The CBD has been cordoned off.

Superintendent Dave Cliff says police know there are people unaccounted for in buildings within the central city.

“This is a sad day for Christchurch, and indeed New Zealand,” he says. “Our hearts go out to all whose who are suffering from today’s awful events.”

Police are urging people to:

  • Stay out of the central city
  • Stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary to travel
  • Check the welfare of your neighbours – especially the elderly
  • Conserve water

7.15pm – Photos have emerged of icebergs carving into the Tasman ocean, broke off glaciers by the force of the quake. Read the story here.

7.07pm – Statistics NZ has stopped the delivery of census forms in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula. The delivery of census forms to the rest of New Zealand was unaffected. The five yearly census will be held on March 8.

7.03pm – Christchurch Hospital is bracing for a sudden increase in new babies as women go into premature labour as a result of the quake.

The number of babies being born spiked following the September 4 quake and a repeat is likely today.

6.59pm – Prime Minister John Key has told 3 News there are currently 180 police on the ground in Christchurch as well as 350 military personnel. A further 250 are arriving overnight and the Government has accepted assistance from Australia and the United States.

“It is hard to put words around this. This is a city that suffered a enormous earthquake six months ago but we all went away and said how lucky we were that it happened at a time when lives were spared. It is the opposite this time,” says Prime Minister John Key.

“It’s hard to describe what was a vibrant city just a few hours ago now has just been brought to its knees.”

6.56pm – To donate to The Salvation Army Canterbury Earthquake Appeal freephone 0800 53 0000.

6.52pm – The Red Cross has activated its national emergency operations centre in Wellington and has activated its Christchurch response team.

6.50pm – Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand released this statement:

“Having just left Christchurch this morning it has been with great shock to learn of the latest earthquake to hit Canterbury this afternoon. I have been informed of damage, serious injuries and, most distressingly, significant loss of life.

“This latest event, coming after last September's devastating quake, will be traumatic to the people of the city and region who have endured six months of aftershocks while trying to put their lives together.

“Despite the devastation wrought, I am confident that the emergency services, local government and people generally will respond to those in need.

“My wife Susan and I join all New Zealanders in our thoughts for the people of Christchurch and Canterbury at this terrible time.”

6.42pm – The Twitter trends map has been overtaken by conversation about the quake. Read more here.

6.38pm – Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has voiced support for Canterbury. “We’ll throw everything we can at Christchurch. If we throw too much, that’s fine. I’d rather throw too much than not enough,” he says.

Mr Rudd says 350 Australians are registered in Christchurch, and 8,000 in the Canterbury region. Australians in the region can call 13 00555 135 for assistance.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland says Australia will send an advance rescue team in a few hours. A 70-strong heavy urban search and rescue team from New South Wales will be sent tonight, including search dogs. South Australia and Queensland have also offered search and rescue teams.

6.33pm – Lyttelton Tunnel has been re-opened for use by emergency vehicles.

6.30pm – Christchurch Hospital is requesting people keep the emergency department for serious injuries. All people with non-serious injuries should contact their own doctor.

6.28pm – The Salvation Army has re-launched its Canterbury Earthquake Appeal in “expectation of great humanitarian need”.

6.20pm – Prime Minister John Key says 65 people have been confirmed dead.

6.15pm – The 22nd aftershock hit Canterbury at 5.56pm. It was a magnitude 4.0 tremor, at a depth of 15km, 10km southeast of Christchurch.

6.11pm – ANZ New Zealand has donated $1 million to support long-term relief efforts in Christchurch and is taking donations from the public.

People can make donations at any ANZ or National Bank branch, or online to 01-1839-0188939-00 (ANZ) or 06-0869-0548507-00 (National Bank).

6.10pm – Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the death toll could be between 50 and 60 people.

6.09pm – Civil Defence Minister John Hamitlon says 17 people have been confirmed dead so far.

6.00pm – Ex-Mediaworks CEO turned talkback presenter on RadioLIVE Brent Impey is fielding calls right now. People are offering Cantabrians places to stay and other assistance. Why not give him a ring on 0800 723 465.

You can leave a message on the RadioLIVE website here.

5.58pm – Prisoners were evacuated from Christchurch’s central court building following the quake. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said all of tomorrow’s court sittings in Christchurch had been cancelled and court fixtures in Timaru, Ashburton and Rangiora were also unlikely to go ahead. Several ministry buildings had been extensively damaged.

5.53pm – A 12th aftershock hit the region at 5.29pm. It was a magnitude 3.6 tremor at a depth of 11km, 10km east of Christchurch.

5.50pm – A large number of police staff are being readied to deploy from around New Zealand to Christchurch. Canterbury district commander superintendent Dave Cliff says while fatalities have been reported, their exact number is not yet known.

5.47pm – The NZ Transport Agency has closed the Lyttelton tunnel following the earthquake. Rakaia and Waimakariri Bridge on SH1 remain open.

5.40pm – Auckland City Hospital and Starship Hospital says they are ready to assist treating people injured in the quake. They have not had confirmation that there will be any need to transfer patients, but 88 ward beds are available if necessary.

5.35pm – An 11th aftershock struck at 5.19pm at a depth of 15km. It was a magnitude 4.6.

5.33pm – Progressive Enterprises says the majority of its Countdown and Foodtown supermarkets will remain closed overnight. Most of the stores have experienced damaged to stock but all staff have been accounted for and only a small number have minor injuries. Stores will not be re-opened until it is safe to do so. Online shopping services also remain suspended.

5.23pm – A 10th aftershock hit Christchurch at 4.43pm. It was a magnitude 3.7 and was at a depth of 6km.

5.20pm – Jason Reweti has contacted 3 News saying his cousin along with others are trapped in the BNZ building in the central city near the Cathedral.

5.14pm – BP has closed all of its Christchurch service stations subject to inspection of ground-based tanks and pipes.

5.11pm – St John says in the two hours following the earthquake it received 353 calls, compared to the 250 it receives for a standard 24 hour period. St John says it is now coping with managing the call level and the peak volume of calls has now subsided.

5.10pm – Telecom says 111 services are now stable and available for use. The Christchurch 111 calls centre has been successfully diverted to Wellington and 111 calls are being prioritised.

5.09pm – At least one person has been confirmed dead and more than 30 others trapped in the Pyne Gould Corp building in central Christchurch.

5.04pm – There are reports floors 10 to 17 of Clarendon Tower building in the CBD are trapped due to collapsed stairwells.

5.03pm – The Dean of Christchurch Cathedral says the partial destruction of the iconic building is unimportant in light of the great human cost the disaster will incur.

Dean Peter Beck said there were visitors inside the building when the earthquake hit and it could not be confirmed whether anyone was still trapped beneath the rubble.

“We just don’t know if there were people underneath so all we can do now is just pray and wait while the emergency services get in there. We just don’t know.”

4.53pm – Reports that the suburb of Lytellton and Brighton are ‘unliveable’.

4.48pm – Police are warning people not to jump in and try to help rescue people or dig through the rubble.

4.43pm – The Christchurch Blood Donor Centre says it will be closed until further notice. It says it has good supplies of blood in Christchurch and can bring in extra supplies from other centres.

4.42pm – Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says a security cordon will be established around central Christchurch. Two search and rescue teams are being flown into the city.

4.41pm – The Government has accepted international help for expertise for rescue operations.

4.35pm – There have now been nine aftershocks since the 12.51pm quake. The latest was a magnitude 5.0 at 4.04pm.

4.25pm – The Interislander services across the Cook Strait are operating as per normal.

4.24pm – KiwiRail says all trains have been halted between Timaru and Picton, and on the West Coast. There have been no reports of injuries to staff or passengers. About 400 passenger in transit have been affected by the quake. A seven-wagon coal train has derailed in the Christchurch suburb of Heathcote.

4.22pm – The Auckland University Students Association has launched an immediate street appeal to raise money for the people of Christchurch.

4.18pm – The quake was felt as far as Invercargill, says resident ‘Katy M’.

4.16pm – Julie Cooper, whose sister was trapped in The Press building, has contacted 3 News to say two people have been rescued after rescuers came through the roof. One of those rescued was Ms Cooper’s sister. The rest of the people are still trapped.

4.11pm – Meridian Energy’s Christchurch-based call centre has been closed today. All Meridian staff were evacuated from its offices in Manchester St and Sir William Pickering Dr.

4.08pm – Police Commissioner Howard Broad is currently on his way to Christchurch courtesy of an Air Force flight.

4.02pm – Labour leader Phil Goff tweeted shortly after the quake struck: “Paintings falling down, plaster coming off the walls, roof tiles falling down – scary stuff”.

4.01pm – Trevor Morrison has contacted 3 News saying his son contacted him saying he and 23 others are trapped on the 17th storey of the Forsyth-Barr building as the stairwell has collapsed.

3.58pm – Delegates at the United States New Zealand Partnership Forum meeting in Christchurch are understood to be safe, but that cannot be officially confirmed. A US delegation of 43 government, business and community leaders was attending the forum which began yesterday and was due to end this evening. A group of nine US congressmen had left Christchurch this morning before the quake struck and were visiting Parliament this afternoon.

3.56pm – If you have been affected by the quake, here is some information on what to do now

3.55pm – AM radio frequencies are down in Christchurch.

3.54pm – Google has set up a people finder service for those looking for loved ones in the quake.

3.51pm – A tweet from ZM Online: “Bodies are being taken out of the Youth Hostels Association building in Christchurch”.

3.50pm – The 111 phone system in Southland is overloaded. Anyone needing urgent assistance from the police must phone their local station directly. This number is in the Blue Pages at the front of the Southland phone book.

  • For ambulance call 03 211 3044
  • For Fire Service call 214 3779

3.43pm – Civil Defence says many roads are congested and is asking people to avoid travelling unless “absolutely necessary”.

3.40pm – Telecom has moved to enable free calling from 280 payphones in and around Christchurch for local, national and mobile calls. The free service will be live from 3am Wednesday.

3.38pm – The Fire Service is mobilising its two North Island urban search and rescue taskforces. The Service says it is responding with “all its resources”.

3.31pm – Triage centres have been established for people with injuries at Latimer Square in the Central City, Spotlight Mall in Sydenham and at Sanitarium in Papanui.

3.27pm – See a map of all the quakes and aftershocks that have hit Christchurch since September 4 here

3.25pm – Police are arresting people who are getting in the way of emergency services trying to help those trapped and injured.

3.24pm – The emergency 111 system is not working; people should call 03 211 3044.

3.23pm – Christchurch Airport has two runways operational but only for medical evacuations and medical assistance and for the Prime Minister.

3.20pm – Civil Defence has issued another update, requesting people text rather than make cellphone calls to ease the load on telecommunications services. One ward at Christchurch Hospital has been damaged, the rest is fully operational.

3.13pm – Six aftershocks have hit Christchurch this afternoon. A 3.4 hit at 2.37pm, a 4.0 hit at 2.39 and a larger 5.5 hit at 2.50pm within 5km of Lyttelton.

3.11pm – Eighty percent of Christchurch is without power.

3.08pm – Julie Cooper has emailed 3 News saying her sister and five colleagues are trapped on the third flood of The Press building in Cathedral Square. The roof has collapsed on them and they are pinned under desks that have been destroyed with the impact of the rubble. They are unable to move and cannot see each other in the office space. Her sister is able to make cell phone calls, is very upset but is coping. They are still awaiting rescue.

2.56pm – Auckland Hospital is on a ‘Code Red’ to receive patients.

2.55pm – There are reports 60 percent of Lyttelton has been virtually demolished.

2.50pm – One lady trapped on the roof of the Pyne Gould Guiness building has been rescued by the Fire Service. The building has been completely demolished; a witness on the street outside says she estimated there would have been 200 people inside.

2.46pm – As previously stated, the city has run out of ambulances and police cars are being used to ferry injured persons.

2.45pm – Multiple aftershocks are continuing to hit the city.

2.42pm – See raw video footage of when the quake hit here

2.41pm – Civil Defence says the National Crisis Management Centre has been activated and urban search and rescue teams have been deployed. An Australian team has been put on call.

2.40pm – There are reports the city has run out ambulances; further reports of fatalities include witnesses seeing bodies pulled from rubble on Hereford St.

2.35pm – Contrary to some reports, Christchurch Hospital has NOT been evacuated and is fully functional.

2.27pm – One person has been confirmed dead in the suburb of Sumner.

2.25pm – Telecom has released a statement saying it is working to understand which services have been affected. Some network sites have been badly damaged and are not working, others are operating on battery power and are functional. Telecom is requesting users to only make emergency calls to conserve back-up power.

2.22pm – A magnitude 4.4 aftershock struck at 1.46pm, 10km east of Lyttelton.

2.18pm – Police have called in Defence Force personnel to help evacuate the central city

2.09pm – Other reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central city and persons reported trapped in buildings.

2.06pm – A number of fatalities have been reported at several locations in the central city, including two buses crushed by falling buildings. A doctor and emergency services are attending.

2.05pm – John Key will fly to Christchurch after a 3pm emergency cabinet meeting. The Civil Defence bunker has been activated at the Beehive.

2.04pm – Prime Minister John Key has made an address to Parliament saying there are “sketchy details” about serious damage and that fatalities cannot be ruled out.

1.57pm – A tweet from a source says “fatalities likely. Body found in Wakefield ST RSA”.

1.56pm – Residents are being urged not to drink tap water as it may be contaminated.

1.55pm – Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says he was in the council chambers when the quake struck and was thrown off his feet.

1.45pm – Witnesses calling 3 News and radio stations say there is copious amounts of liquefaction in the area.

1.30pm – Christ College has also taken a huge hit, witnesses say, the school is said to have sustained serious damage.

1.20pm – Phone lines and traffic lights are down throughout the region.

1.11pm – Christchurch resident Simon Bosma works in the central city and says skyscrapers were swaying when the quake hit.

12.59pm – Christchurch Cathedral is reported to be badly damaged; Christchurch Hospital is also said to have sustained damage and Christchurch Airport has been closed.

12.51pm – A 6.3 magnitude earthquake has struck at a depth of 5km, 10km southeast of Christchurch.


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