Christchurch quake: State of Emergency declared
Saturday 4 Sep 2010 6:37 a.m.
By Angela Beswick
A state of emergency has been declared soon following a massive earthquake in Christchurch this morning.
The Minister of Defence made the announcement during an interview with 3 News this morning, after the earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, struck around 30km west of the city at 4.30am.
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There are no reports of serious injury. Police have confirmed minor injuries, structural damage and cut power. Sewer lines have been damaged and there is considerable damage to at least 20 roads. Sumner Road is now impassable.
Civil Defence Minister John Carter has been joined in Wellington by members of the National Crisis Management Centre at the Beehive to monitor the quake and co-ordinate Government response.
A crisis meeting will be held by Mr Carter, Prime Minister John Key and Civil Defence officials within the next two hours. The meeting will be followed by a conference call with mayors in affected areas.
Mr Key will travel to Christchurch to assess the earthquake damage. He is expected to arrive by airforce plane around 2pm at Christchurch airport.
3 News has obtained pictures showing the extensive damage to buildings in central Christchurch. The Daily Bagel café has had its exterior walls torn down on the upper floor.
There are also unconfirmed reports a search and rescue team has been called into the Christchurch art gallery.
Structural damage to houses, gas coming out of certain places and broken glass is being reported throughout Christchurch. Damage and power outages have been reported as far away as Dunedin.
Water and sewage has been affected in several regions and residents are being warned to conserve water. All Selwyn residents are being asked to conserve water - especially in Rolleston where the supply is reportedly contaminated.
Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee said he expected power to be back on by this evening.
In a statement released this morning, Civil Defence said there are power outages northwest of Christchurch city, however the CBD is understood to be operating normally.
"We have power now," writes Juno Jk Hong. "But still... not safe."
The National Crisis Management Centre has been activated to monitor the situation and co-ordinate central government response if required, according to Civil Defence and Emergency Management director John Hamilton.
The quake was felt as far away as Wellington and some Christchurch residents are reporting ongoing tremors.
“7.58am, still shaking,” writes Daniel Yeoh.
“Ten years in Christchurch, this is the first time I have experienced a 7.4 magnitude earthquake.”
Katie Goodson says the earthquake was strong enough to wake her up in Bulls, Palmerston North.
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Christchurch residents have taken to Twitter, offering live updates of the aftershocks and uploading pictures of the damage.
“I don’t really want to sound like I’m moany or a whimp, but this is not funny, I haven’t been this scared for such a length of time before!!” Yuri_Bacas writes.
“Another aftershake, seriously, this is so nerve breaking. Throat is dry and heart goes pumping, ran to the door fram again, please STOP!”
A man who lives in the southern Christchurch coastal suburb of Soutshore described the quake as “incredibly long and torturous”.
He was on the second floor of his house and could feel the house “twisting and fracturing around our ears,” the NZPA reported.
All of Christchurch’s hospitals are operational, though people are asked only to come in if it is an emergency. They are currently running on generator power.
Many people were suffering from shock, Mr Carter said. But he urged the public not to flood the hospital with minor injuries. He urged them instead to go to their 24-hour medical centres.
"The most important thing we can tell anybody at the moment is please, don't panic," Mr Carter said.
The army had been informed and was ready to mobilise if needed.
The airport is closed. A spokesman told the NZPA officials are waiting for daylight to asses possible damage. They expect to reopen by 10am.
NZPA are reporting the presence of looting in central Christchurch, with police cordoning off the area where looters had already been active.
"Shop windows are broken and obviously it's easy pickings for displays and things," says Inspector Mike Coleman.
Just saw two teens get caught trying to break into the dairy at the river end of Bower Ave. They stole two newspapers and thanks to a nice old man standing by the dairy they got caught after returning to the scene of the crime," writes Andrew Knops.
Mr Coleman said police had taken about 300 calls in the first couple of hours following the quake, with many concerned for relatives.
"We're telling people to check their neighbours and obviously go to their Civil Defence centre if they feel unsafe in their houses," he said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said no destructive widespread tsunami threat existed based on historical earthquake and tsunami data. However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generated local tsunamis that could be destructive along coasts located within 100km of the earthquake epicentre, it said.
Civil Defence asked people to assess their home or workplace for damage; look for and extinguish small fires if safe to do so; and not overflow the phone lines with non-emergency calls. They were also asked to check on elderly neighbours.
Police are warning residents to stay off roads and avoid the central city. All State Highway structures are open to traffic and Lyttleton Tunnel has been checked and reopened, according to the Civil Defence. A major deformation at Bromley has closed the road on SH74, on the ring route to Christchurch.
"We've got considerable damage, there's gas leaks, there's been damaged water pipes, we've got sewage in houses and a lot of power lines and power poles down. It's very unsafe to be out and about," says Mr Coleman.