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Strong quake rocks New Zealand's Christchurch
An earthquake measuring 5.8 strikes the city, closing airport and sending residents fleeing from buildings.
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2011 11:01
Shoppers ran from buildings as goods fell off shelves, but there were no reports of any large-scale damage [Reuters]

A series of powerful earthquakes has struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch, rocking buildings and sending residents fleeing on to the streets in a city still recovering from a deadly quake 10 months ago.

However, Christchurch appeared to have been spared major damage after the first 5.8-magnitude quake on Friday, which struck 26km northeast of Christchurch at a depth of 4.7km, the US Geological Survey said.

Police in the city said there were no reports of major casualties or widespread damage, although one person had been reported hurt at a shopping centre and taken to hospital.

Aftershocks

The first quake, which struck at 1:58pm local time (00:58 GMT), was followed by a series of strong aftershocks. One of a similar magnitude hit 80 minutes later, the USGS said.

Electricity and telecommunications services have been disrupted in some areas.

A shopping centre has also been evacuated and residents were reported to be standing outside buildings.

Christchurch is still recovering from the effects of the previous earthquake in February [Al Jazeera]

The airport was closed but an official told local media it was expected to reopen later in the day after damage checks.

Christchurch, New Zealand's third largest city, is still recovering from a quake measuring 6.3 that killed about 180 people in February and caused an estimated damage of $8.8bn.

Bob Parker, Christchurch Mayor, said the series of earthquakes had shattered the nerves of people who had been slowly getting their lives back to normal.

"It has been a long hard road, 15 months and people had dared to hope that the aftershocks were over," local media quoted him as saying after the first quake.

"I think there will be more damage to buildings, nothing significant, no major collapses just little bits of more debris.

"Inevitably it would have caused damage to structures, we hope it hasn't unsettled any rock falls, and we just have to hope the liquefaction issues don't return."

Local media said there were reports of liquefaction - when an earthquake forces underground water up through loose soil -in the suburb of Parklands.

Power cuts

Ambulance services said they treated 18 people for panic attacks and anxiety.

"In coming days the most likely scenario is that there'll be a series of aftershocks"

- Ken Gledhill,
Seismologist

The region's main power supplier said up to 15,000 customers were left without power, mostly after circuit breakers were tripped.

Christchurch International Airport was evacuated as a precautionary measure, while the terminal and runways were checked.

Scientists had said after the February quake that there would be further shakes, probably as large as magnitude six on the Richter scale.

Large areas of Christchurch's central business district are still off-limits after the February quake, which toppled the city's famous cathedral, as well as shops, homes and office buildings and killed nearly 200 people.

"In coming days the most likely scenario is that there'll be a series of aftershocks in a similar location and they'll gradually drop off," Ken Gledhill, a seismologist with GNS Science, told TVNZ.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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