9 February 2011
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key says at least 65 people have died after the 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch around lunchtime today.
He said the toll was expected to rise further, adding: "We may be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day."
It is the second quake to hit New Zealand in five months. A 7.1-magnitude quake caused extensive damage in the city last September, however today’s quake is much more significant as it’s epicentre was close to Christchurch at a depth of only 5km.
The Mayor of New Zealand’s second-largest city, Bob Parker, says at 200 people are believed to be trapped under rubble. A state of emergency has been declared.
Christchurch Airport has been closed to all but emergency and aid flights, but it is hoped domestic and international flights can resume tomorrow afternoon.
City Mayor Bob Parker told the BBC: "We’re beginning to get a feeling, from what we’ve got so far, that a significant number of people are injured and a significant number of people are still trapped in buildings.
"And as we get further into that rescue operation... clearly we’re going to be presented with statistics that are going to be bleak."
PM John Key said: "It is just a scene of utter devastation. We have to work as fast as we can to get people out of environments where they are trapped.
Power and telecommunications are slowly being restored to the city but the Central Business District (CBD) remains without power until all buildings have been checked.
The CBD is cordoned off and will remain so for some days.