Hundreds dead as quake rocks New Zealand

A deadly 6.3-magnitude earthquake Tuesday struck New Zealand‘s South Island city of Christchurch, killing people and causing widespread damage, officials said.

CNN reported the afternoon quake knocked down buildings and damaged streets as police ordered evacuation in the affected areas where several fatalities were reported.

Those killed included passengers in two buses that were hit by falling structures or debris.

The quake hit before 1 p.m. and was followed by 5.6-magnitude aftershocks, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Christchurch was recovering from extensive damage caused by a 7.1-magnitude quake last year.

USA Today, quoting Radio New Zealand, said people remained trapped in several collapsed buildings, even as the city’s main hospital was being evacuated.

The New Zealand Herald said aftershocks continued to rock the city throughout the day.

“Even sitting in a car you can feel continual shaking on a smaller scale than the original quake,” one witness told the newspaper.

Civil Defense Minister John Carter said most South Island hospitals had been emptied to accommodate earthquake victims. The government was making preparations to declare a state of emergency.

Telephone lines were down, making it difficult to contact emergency services.

The government met in an emergency Cabinet session to discuss other measures to be taken as Prime Minister John Key urged residents to leave the city because of the danger of more buildings collapsing, the report said.

The city’s airport remained closed with incoming flights being diverted, CNN said. officialwire

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