Quakes continue to hit Christchurch

Redcliffs is one area of Christchurch that has suffered further damage after yesterday's earthquakes. Photo / NZPA/Pam Johnson
Redcliffs is one area of Christchurch that has suffered further damage after yesterday's earthquakes. Photo / NZPA/Pam Johnson

Sizable aftershocks are continuing to shake Christchurch today, as the Prime Minister says authorities need time to sort out what parts of the city will be abandoned due to quake damage.

An earthquake of magnitude 4.8 shook Canterbury this afternoon, part of a continuing series of aftershocks shaking the region.

The quake struck at 4.16pm, and was centred 40km northwest of Methven, at a depth of 5km.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

Another 4.2 magnitude shake hit at 12.22pm today, and there have been another nine earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 3.0 since 6am this morning.

Government taking time on big decisions

Prime Minister John Key hopes announcements can be made soon on which parts of Christchurch will be abandoned because of earthquake damage, but says authorities need time to get the decisions right.

Mr Key flew to the city today to inspect damage caused by 5.6 and 6.3 magnitude quakes yesterday.

Mr Key said as well as damaging more buildings, it appeared the quakes had caused further damage to land already marginal following the February 22 quake.

There was a reasonably clear picture of what land could not be rebuilt on, but he gave no specifics and refused to give any time frame for decisions, saying it could be weeks or months, and authorities wanted a reasonably clear picture before deciding.

It was extremely important to get it right, he said.

Authorities were assessing the land as quickly as they possibly could, he said.

The Earthquake Commission today classified the quakes as a new event for insurance purposes with a closing date for claims of September 13.

Injuries and damage

Although the larger of the two quakes matched the deadly February 22 earthquake which claimed 181 lives, only one person was reported to have been killed yesterday.

He was an elderly rest home resident, who fell and became unconscious during the second big quake. He was seen by a doctor, but seemed to recover before dying during the night.

Fifteen thousand homes were without power in Christchurch this morning, and all schools were closed.

Yesterday 12 people were admitted to Christchurch hospitals and two dozen more treated in emergency departments for injuries caused by falling debris.

During the night three elderly people were treated for hypothermia and Canterbury District Health Board warned people to ensure they kept warm, and to ensure they boiled drinking water.

Liquefaction caused silt and water to bubble up in many areas, particularly in Sumner and Bexley, where many people having been doing it tough since the September and February quakes.

Most schools escape damage

Education Minister Anne Tolley said most Christchurch schools escaped damage and should be able to reopen in the next two days.

However, although six or seven schools had been hit hard.

"There are a number of our eastern suburb schools that have significant liquefaction, in fact more liquefaction issues than we had even in the February quake," she said.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said many smaller tertiary institutes were open, but Canterbury University, Lincoln University and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology all remained closed.

"The three big ones are really working on making sure their buildings are safe," he said.

Health and transport

Elective surgery was cancelled at hospitals today.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said there had been no significant damage to hospitals.

"The people have been on edge for quite some time and of course with the earthquakes yesterday they're on edge again, but the health staff are working tirelessly at the hospitals and GP clinics around Canterbury," Mr Ryall said.

Mr Joyce, who is also Transport Minister, said there was some difficultly getting around on the roads and people were asked not to use them, if possible, to ease congestion.

"It's very frustrating for everybody. It's frustrating for road users, it's frustrating for the roading organisations - they're sort of two steps forward and one step back."

State Highway 74 tended to take the brunt of damage in the highway network but was today open.

"But there are a number of local roads and a number of local bridges that they're looking to get open," he said.

Mr Joyce said there were no funding issues for road repair work.

"If they need to do work they can go ahead and do it, there's funding available for emergency works," he said.

"My understanding is there's not a significant (cost) increase on what's happened out of February 22 but it's early days.

"But I think what we're seeing is the same sorts of weaknesses in the roading system that were there before."

He said there were more issues with liquefaction, clean-up and bridge testing.

"But at this stage, no indication that there's substantially greater amounts of money involved in putting the road back together."

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said yesterday's tremors caused a lot more damage in the central city, already devastated by the deadly February 22 quake. Some buildings there were now condemned beyond doubt.

- NZPA

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