December 23, 2011 – Christchurch, New Zealand Struck by another Devastating Earthquake: Quake-weary Christchurch got an unwelcome pre-Christmas reminder of the horror of February when two large earthquakes hit the city. Three unoccupied buildings have collapsed and there have been a dozens of minor injuries. Four large quakes hit the city on Friday afternoon, the largest measuring 5.9 magnitude, while the lesser ones measured 5.3M and 5.0M. They were centered offshore, 15 kilometers (9 miles) ENE of the city, at a depth of 5 kilometers (3 miles). They were felt widely around the South Island but there was no threat of a tsunami. There were widespread evacuations of shopping malls, buildings and Christchurch Airport and traffic congestion as people hit the roads to get home. Residents at Windsor Hospital rest home in New Brighton were evacuated by the Fire Service. Police are warning people to stay away from suburbs in the hills.
The eastern suburbs, which were hard-hit by February’s devastating quake, were again hit by significant liquefaction (ground turns to liquid) and flooding. Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton told Radio New Zealand he had flown over the city and seen liquefaction in the eastern suburbs of the city. “The Christchurch Cathedral appeared to have suffered more damage,” he said. A partly demolished building in the central city had collapsed along with a vacant house in the suburb of Hillsborough and a red-stickered house in Oram Ave, New Brighton. St John Ambulance says it received around 150 emergency calls and it attended treated about 60 people for incidents such as heart attacks, collapses and panic attacks. Power Company Orion said an estimated 26,000 connections lost power in the eastern suburbs. Christchurch Airport was evacuated after the quake, but was expected to reopen at 5:20pm (7:20pm AEDT) with flights to resume at 6pm (8pm AEDT).
Christmas air travel for many people is expected to be disrupted after flights were cancelled. The quake rattled the fragile nerves of many Cantabrians, who would have been hoping for a Christmas free of tremors. It also comes less than two weeks after the Christchurch City Council adopted a draft rebuild plan for the city, following the February quake. Christchurch mayor Bob Parker told TVNZ the quake would add to people’s stress as they recovered from the devastating 6.1 quake on February 22 which destroyed much of the central city and killed 182 people. Prime Minister John Key said he felt for the city.
The tremor occurred at 3:18PM near the epicenter on December 23rd. It was 9:18PM (December 22nd) in New York, 8:18PM in Chicago, 7:18PM in Denver and 6:18PM in Los Angeles.
New Zealand is a very earthquake prone nation with 15 of the 349 tremors greater than or equal to 7.0 magnitude, over the last 39 years, occurring at New Zealand or to the north in the Kermadec Islands. Christchurch was hit by a 7.0M tremor on September 3, 2010; injuring two. The Kermadec Islands, located to the NNE of North Island, New Zealand was struck by two 7.6 magnitude quakes on July 6, 2011 and October 23, 2011.
Although the February 22, 2011 quake that devastated the city was “only” 6.1M, it was directly under the city at a depth of 5 kilometers (3 miles) and, therefore, caused major havoc and destruction.
The Master of Disaster