Terrible Christmas shock for Christchurch

A car rests in sink hole caused by liquefaction in the Christchurch suburb of Parklands after a series of earthquakes struck Christchurch today. Photo / Simon Baker
A car rests in sink hole caused by liquefaction in the Christchurch suburb of Parklands after a series of earthquakes struck Christchurch today. Photo / Simon Baker

The hearts of the nation have once again gone out to the people of Christchurch.

Yet another swarm of earthquakes, reaching up to magnitude 6.0, terrified many already fed-up residents today.

The first inkling of trouble came when a shallow 5.8 magnitude quake bashed its way through the region just before 2pm.

It was a long, rumbling tremor that shook power poles and forced traffic to pull over.

Christmas shoppers fled for cover as shopping malls swayed and office workers dived for cover under their desks.

All major malls were closed and pre-schools were evacuated.

Commercial cleaner Daniel Yeoh was having lunch across the road from Christchurch Casino when the first quake struck. He said he saw cracks appear on the building when sharp aftershocks followed the initial tremor.

"The whole building was shaking, and I was worried that it might just collapse," said Mr Yeoh.

Christchurch Star reporter Tracey Chatterton was at the library in Beckenham.

She said she had to "hang onto a pole for dear life" as other people ducked below tables.

Nienke Prime thought she was about to die in Riccarton Mall. "I was looking at the roof and waiting for it to fall on top of everyone, that's how bad it was. It was shocking."

Mark Waller, managing director of EBOS Group said said the tremors knocked his computer off his desk and "emptied cupboards in the office".

Traffic chaos returned to Christchurch as people left work early, even as major new holes reportedly opened up on Broadhaven Avenue, and phone networks jammed as distraught callers sought reassurance that their loved ones had survived.

A swarm of aftershocks followed - the largest 80 minutes after the first, with a magnitude of 6.0.

Eastern suburbs' residents wearily trudged home through ankle-deep slop that resumed oozing out of the ground as liquefaction.

BlueRose tweeted: "am home and ok tho house is trashed AGAIN."

Raf Manji said: "Sweeping up broken china, applying plasters to cut fingers ... groundhog day."

Actor Robyn Malcolm tweeted "F*** that was terrifying. My hat goes off to you Cantabrians. Kids and I shaky as. ... Weird smell of sulphur ..."

APNZ journalist Kurt Bayer was sitting in a parked car in Burwood when the earthquake hit.

"The car started rocking gently but it slowly started getting more violent. I was parked under a tree and I was sort of in a quandary as to whether I should drive away from the tree, but there were also old-fashioned power lines along the road which were swinging a good metre so it didn't really matter where I was. I was in the lap of the gods really."

Lines company Orion said 26,000 customers initially lost electricity, and the sticky smell of sewage hung heavy in the Woolston area.

Rough repeat
Frightened again. Broken again.

And this time, just two days before Christmas.

Thankfully nobody was killed this time and injuries were only minor. Four people were rescued from a rockfall in Boulder Bay.

A 'significant' rockfall hit Redcliffs and a stopbank on New Brighton Road collapsed.

"People are urged to stay away from hill suburbs because of risk of rockfalls," said police.

Two buildings fell down - one already partly demolished on the corner of Barbadoes and Kilmore Streets, the other a vacant house at 81 Aynsley Terrace.

Authorities were relieved that the CBD was largely vacant.

Christchurch airport was shut for the afternoon as a precaution, throwing many Christmas travel plans out the window. It was given the all-clear and reopened by early evening but significant delays and some flight cancellations were expected. Auckland and Wellington airports also suffered the hangover of disrupted flight schedules.

The Christchurch City Council established an Emergency Operations Centre, and the Civil Defence bunker at the Beehive was activated.

The National Crisis Management Centre recommended people drop, cover, and hold on through each aftershock. "Check yourself first for injuries and get first aid if necessary before helping injured or trapped persons," it advised.

Although the Christchurch District Health Board triggered its emergency response procedures, David Coetzee, the National Civil Defence controller, said Christchurch hospitals were coping well and local authorities and emergency services did not expect to declare a state of emergency or require help from other centres.

Federated Farmers wanted to hear from farms that lost utilities or suffered damage.

"Initial reports to Federated Farmers from our members is that is was an especially violent event," said Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers President.

"Right now dairy farms are on twice-a-day milking so continuity of electricity is vital. It's fair to say that there might have been damage to grain silos as well."

Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Amy Adams, was among those shaken by this afternoon's quake.

She told APNZ: "It's not what anyone needs at the end of a stressful year and heading into Christmas, and with the memory of the big shake of Boxing Day last year very fresh in our minds."

Prime Minister John Key, Labour and the Greens all expressed sympathy and sent their best wishes.

"The Government's resolve to work with the people of Christchurch and Canterbury to rebuild remains unchanged ..." assured Mr Key.

The anxious folk of the garden city have now been told by seismologists to expect aftershocks to rumble on right through the Christmas holiday period, tapering off over the next week.

Some locals admit today was the last straw, and say plans are now in place to leave the area for good.

- APNZ

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