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5.8 magnitude quake hits Christchurch

UPDATED: Second quake felt | Police say no reports of serious injuries or widespread damage at this stage. | Christchurch airport runway closed.

NBR staff
Fri, 23 Dec 2011

UPDATED 4.15pm: Christchurch Airport has closed its runway following the earthquakes which struck this afternoon. No timeframe has been given for a resumption of services.

UPDATED 3.40pm:  Chirstchurch has had a second sizeable quake, just 90 minutes after a 5.8 shock shook the city. Hitting just before 3.20pm, details of size and location are pending.

Police have updated the situation in Christchurch, saying while there are still no reports of serious or widespread damage or injury, issues are emerging. A US geological site has it too at 5.8 magnitute (and a depth of 4.9kms) but local Geonet has yet to post details. Some media are reporting it at 5.3 on the richter scale.

They say:

  • - There is NO tsunami threat.
  • - Damage reported to the WINZ building in New Brighton - all staff safely evacuated.
  • - People are urged to stay away from hill suburbs because of risk of rockfalls.
  • - Coastguard have rescued four people trapped by rockfall in Boulder Bay.
  • - Liquefaction reported in Parklands, Wainoni.
  • - Power outages reported in New Brighton, Dallington.
  • - Severe traffic congestion now reported in some areas including around the Palms Mall and New Brighton Road.
  • - Drivers are urged to slow down and be patient as congestion is building up in some areas. Stay off roads if you do not need to travel.
  • - Phone networks are under pressure - text rather than phone.

Telecom says there has not been any significant disruption to its services although there was some congestion in the immediate aftermath of the first quake. The company is asking customers to text rather than make mobile calls in order to ease the load on its mobile networks.

Disruption to mains power supplies means that some equipment is operating on battery and generator backup.

111 emergency calling remains operational.

A strong earthquake has been felt in Christchurch and surrounding areas. There are no reports of injuries but residents say items fell off shelves and there is some minor damage.

Geonet says the 1.58pm quake measured 5.8 on the richter scale and was 8km deep, centred 20km northeast of Lyttelton.

Details are pending of the situation at Christchurch Airport - which has been evacuated - with its website advising passengers to check with airlines before heading to the airport.

Meridian Energy has closed its call centre in Christchurch following the quake and says it will provide an update soon.

Phone lines are stuggling to cope with increased volume.

Christchurch Police say initial reports indicate no serious injuries or widespread damage at this stage. They are urging drivers to slow down, saying there is significant traffic on city streets - but not gridlocked at this stage. 

Police say:

  • Scarborough rockface has suffered some collapse but this has been contained by the containers at the foot of the cliff.
  • Lyttelton tunnel is open
  • Airport has been evacuated
  • All major shopping malls have been evacuated and closed
  • 1 person is reported to have been injured at Eastgate Mall and has been taken to hospital.

NBR Christchurch-based reporter Chris Hutching says he saw some liquefaction (mainly water) and that power was out in some places. Phone lines are congested with many calls unable to connect.

He was in a supermarket during the quake and says many fellow shoppers became hysterical.

The quake took residents by surprise as it was the largest shake for some time. Several aftershocks quickly followed.

NBR staff
Fri, 23 Dec 2011
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5.8 magnitude quake hits Christchurch