WELLINGTON: Authorities declared an overnight curfew for Saturday after a major earthquake hit New Zealand’s second biggest city, Christchurch, bringing down power lines and bridges and wrecking roads and building facades.
“The damages are incredibly frightening. The only thing you can say it’s a miracle that no one lost their life,” Prime Minister Mr John Key told Television NZ after the quake struck with a magnitude of 7.1 from a depth of 10 kms (6 miles) at around 4:35 a.m. local time on Friday.
He said early estimates for the cost of repairs were around NZ 2 billion dollar (1.4 billion dollar).
A curfew was slapped on the central business district of Christchurch between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. local time.
Earlier, a formal civil defence state of emergency was imposed in the city of around 350,000 to coordinate recovery operations.
The last time authorities declared a local emergency was in late December 2007 when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Gisborne on New Zealand’s North Island. The earthquake caused damage to some buildings but also caused no casualties.
Christchurch city and the neighbouring small towns bore the full force of the quake, which did considerable damage to infrastructure.
“The damage is immense, it’s something that has affected every family, every household…the hit on our infrastructure, the pipes that deliver the water, the waste water, the bridges, the power supplies…has been very significant,” Christchurch mayor Mr Bob Parker told reporters.
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.
Police said there were minor 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, with some streets and footpaths subsiding.
In late afternoon, power has been restored to 90 per cent of the Christchurch urban area and 80 per cent of the rural network.
Authorities were preparing to bring in water in large tankers because pumping stations were out of action and pipes broken.