New Zealand City Hit by More Earthquakes

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE JONES

A SERIES of strong earthquakes struck Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday, rattling buildings, sending goods tumbling from shelves and prompting terrified Christmas shoppers to flee into the streets.

There was no tsunami alert issued and the city appeared to have been spared major damage.

One person was injured at a city mall and four people had to be rescued after being trapped by a rock fall, police said.

But there were no immediate reports of serious injuries or widespread damage in the city, which is still recovering from the devastating February earthquake that killed 182 people and destroyed much of the central city area.

The first 5.8-magnitude quake struck in the afternoon, 16 miles north of Christchurch and 2.5 miles deep, the US Geological Survey said. Minutes later, a 5.3-magnitude aftershock hit and about an hour after that, the city was shaken by another 5.8-magnitude temblor. Both aftershocks were less than three miles deep.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre did not issue an alert.

The city's airport was evacuated after the first quake and all city malls shut down as a precaution.

Warwick Isaacs, demolitions manager for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, said most buildings had been evacuated "as an emergency measure".

The area has recorded more than 7,000 earthquakes since a magnitude-7 quake rocked the city on September 4 last year. That quake did not cause any deaths.

Rock falls had occurred in one area and there was liquefaction - when an earthquake forces underground water up through loose soil - in several places, Mr Isaacs told New Zealand's National Radio.

"There has been quite a lot of stuff falling out of cupboards, off shelves in shops and that sort of thing, again," he said. …