Sharp quake aftershock rattles New Zealand city

AP News
Posted: Oct 19, 2010 8:13 AM
Sharp quake aftershock rattles New Zealand city

An aftershock of a powerful earthquake just weeks ago rattled raw nerves in the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Tuesday, cutting power and phone service and causing other light damage.

Prime Minister John Key told reporters he was concerned for the city's residents, who "just want the aftershocks to come to an end."

The magnitude-5 temblor was one of the stronger of the hundreds of aftershocks that have hit the city since a magnitude-7 quake Sept. 4. That quake wrecked thousands of homes and tore up farmland but did not kill anyone. No injuries were immediately reported from Tuesday's aftershock.

"Everything rocked. Just when you think you're getting used to it, (another) goes," said cafe owner Flick Holmes.

Businesses in the center of Christchurch were evacuated, and stone and brick buildings were damaged, though no significant damage was reported, regional civil defense official Jon Mitchell said.

Tuesday's quake was centered six miles (10 kilometers) southwest of the city and just five miles (nine kilometers) below the surface, New Zealand's geological agency GNS Science said. It was felt strongly because it was so shallow, agency seismologist Bill Fry told New Zealand's National Radio.

More aftershocks of a similar magnitude were likely, and the region could still be experiencing aftershocks in a year's time, Fry said.

Electricity and phone service were cut to several parts of the city, civil defense officials said.

"All our china is smashed in our kiosk," said Fiona Fidow at the Cupcake Collection shop in Westfield Mall in suburban Riccarton.

"The mall has been evacuated. Quite a few people are crying and hysterical. There are a lot of frightened people," she told the "Stuff" news website.

About 300 workers were evacuated from a construction site at Christchurch International Airport, while the airport itself reopened after engineers checked its runways for cracks.

Officials have estimated that 50,000 homes in the city need major repairs from the original quake, with some 1,200 houses likely to be demolished and rebuilt. They have estimated that the full bill for quake damage could reach 4 billion New Zealand dollars ($2.9 billion).