New Zealand Prime Minister John Key declared a national state of emergency in New Zealand in a moving speech delivered this morning.:
"New Zealanders have woken to a tragedy unfolding in the great city of Christchurch.
"The earthquake that struck the Canterbury region at 12.50 yesterday has wreaked death and destruction on a dreadful scale. There is no reason that can make sense of this event.
"No words that can spare our pain. We are witnessing the havoc caused by a violent and ruthless act of nature. Many people have lost their lives. Families have lost their cherished loved ones. Mates have lost their mates.
"These deaths are the greatest loss. They remind us that buildings are just buildings, roads just roads, but our people are irreplaceable. Today all New Zealanders grieve for you Christchurch."
Residents of Christchurch and their families and friends in New Zealand and around the world mourn the losses in the city as emergency teams arrive to rescue those still trapped in the rubble and restore basic services.
How big was the quake?
Yesterday’s quake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale at a depth of 5km, according to the US Geolofical Survey. There have been more than 30 aftershocks with a magnitude between 4 and 6 since the main quake. See the complete list of aftershocks here at GeoNet, a project which monitors geological hazards in New Zealand.
How does this compare to last year’s earthquake in Christchurch?
An earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale rocked the city in September last year; its epicentre was 40 km west of the city and it struck four times deeper than yesterday’s did. There was huge property damage last year but no loss of life.
How many people have died?
At publication, there are 75 confirmed deaths but many people remain trapped in rubble and hundreds of people are reportedly missing.
What’s the damage?
The damage is extensive but because the main quake was so shallow, and because aftershocks continue, it is impossible to measure. Buildings that survived the last quake have been damaged, including the city’s Cathedral which lost its spire. There are fears that many large buildings in the city centre, including the Hotel Grand Chancellor, may collapse. The airport is closed, roads are damaged and building owners and residents aren’t allowed to enter the CBD until further notice.
How do I find out whether or not someone I know in Christchurch is OK?
Google has launched a "People Finder" application. You can search for loved ones and Christchurchers can enter information about their status. Further information is available from the NZ Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management here.
There’s also plenty of information broadcast on Twitter. Follow breaking news by searching for the hashtag #EQNZ.
What role is Australia playing?
Australia is sending police and medical and emergency workers to assist with the rescue and recovery effort. Three hundred police will be deployed for at least a fortnight and they will be joined by a 75-strong medical team who will staff a field hospital.
Attorney-General Robert McLelland announced last night that 148 urban search and rescue personnel were on their way to Christchurch: "These rescue teams are experts at recovering people who are trapped or affected by structural collapse and consist of highly trained emergency services workers, doctors, engineers and search dogs." He noted, "New Zealand was one of the first countries to offer assistance to Australia during the floods crisis and we will continue to do what we can to help our friends across the Tasman through this catastrophe."
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