WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A major earthquake hit New Zealand’s second biggest city Christchurch early on Saturday, bringing down power lines, ripping up roads and wrecking building facades, but authorities reported no deaths.
Authorities declared a formal civil defense state of emergency to coordinate recovery operations in the city, which has a population of about 350,000 people, after facades collapsed into streets, crushing cars and blocking roads.
Two men suffered serious injuries and police closed off the central business district.
The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.1 and a depth of 10 kms (6 miles), hitting the South Island city and a large surrounding area of farms at around 4.35 a.m. local time (12:35 p.m. EDT Friday).
“There’s a lot of damage that I’ve been able to observe in the central city area, mainly of the old brick and masonry buildings, a number of those have got walls that have fallen into the street,” Christchurch mayor Bob Parker told Radio New Zealand.
The city’s hospital said two men had been admitted with serious injuries, one hit by a falling chimney and the other cut by glass. It had also treated a few other people with broken bones, cuts and grazes.
Police said there were several instances of looting, which had been quickly contained. In the suburbs many houses had broken windows, toppled chimneys, cracked walls and items thrown off shelves.
Power was out over a large area of the city and surrounding region as circuit breakers were tripped at substations, but was being progressively restored after safety checks.