A magnitude 6.3 earthquake has devastated the New Zealand city of Christchurch, with the government reporting 65 dead.
New Zealand’s prime minister John Key said today’s disaster could prove to be the country’s “darkest day”. A state of emergency has now been declared in Christchurch as search and rescue teams search the rubble.
The quake struck at 12.52 local time today, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). Christchurch was already badly damaged from a quake in September last year, although there were no deaths from that event.
The latest quake though was shallower than September’s, increasingly the likelihood that it would cause serious damage.
“The critical issue with this earthquake was that the epicentre was at shallow depth under Christchurch, so many people were within 10 to 20 km of the fault rupture,” said Gary Gibson, of the University of Melbourne School of Earth Sciences, in a statement distributed by the New Zealand Science Media Centre. “The magnitude 7.0 earthquake on 4 September 2010 was 30 to 40 kilometres west of Christchurch and ruptured mainly to the west.”
The USGS also notes that this quake is “significantly closer” to the centre of Christchurch and says that although there is “no specific structure” linking this latest event to the September earthquake there have been “numerous aftershocks” extended from the previous rupture.
“The February 21st earthquake represents the largest aftershock to date, more that half a magnitude unit larger than the previous largest aftershock,” it says.