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Earthquake rumbles through New Zealand


Some stores were looted after being damaged by the quake
Some stores were looted after being damaged by the quake

Nicole Kallmeyer, staff writer

September 3, 2010 — A powerful earthquake caused considerable damage to the southwestern city of Christchurch

Several cars were hit by falling rubble
Several cars were hit by falling rubble

Thousands in New Zealand got a shaky wake-up call early Saturday morning when a powerful earthquake hit the South Island area.

The 7.4-magnitude quake broke 30 km west of Christchurch, home to 400,000 people. The area was also rocked by a series of aftershocks, but no tsunami alert was issued.

Christchurch Hospital treated two men with serious injuries and a number of people with minor wounds.

Some buildings collapsed; cars were crushed by fallen bricks; items were tossed from store shelves; and roof tiles cracked. Christchurch police reported road damage, power outages and looters in some damaged shops.

“It's very unsafe to be out and about,” Police Inspector Mike Coleman said.

Police officers cordoned off some streets where rubble was strewn
Police officers cordoned off some streets where rubble was strewn

The city's mayor, Bob Parker, said gas and water supplies were also disrupted. And the Christchurch International Airport was closed after the quake so runways and terminals could be checked.

One Christchurch local said panicked residents ran into the streets in their pyjamas. “There were rows of shops completely demolished right in front of me,” she described.

The earthquake was centred 10 kilometers below the Earth's surface. This shallowness created destruction across a wider area.

New Zealand sits above an area of the earth's crust where two tectonic plates collide. The country records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, but only about 150 are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 a year cause damage.

With files from the Associated Press

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