An earthquake in Christchurch has killed more than 65 people and injured hundreds more. The New Zealand Red Cross tells Channel 4 News the risk of aftershocks is affecting the rescue.
The powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck around six miles (10km) outside Christchurch in New Zealand during lunchtime rush hour, causing widespread destruction and injury.
Eyewitnesses said the three-mile (5km) deep tremor, believed to be an aftershock from a 7.1 magnitude earthquake which struck last September, levelled high-rise buildings, tore up pavements and sprayed rubble onto the streets below.
Kineta Knight was in a Christchurch gym when the earthquake struck.
“It was just me and my instructor and then she yelled at me to get under a doorframe”, Kineta told Channel 4 News.
“As soon as it happened a massive fish tank fell on the equipment I was on.
It’s been a really horrible day. It’s devastating. Kineta Knight, Christchurch resident
“I got in my car and wanted to get home to make sure my pregnant sister was ok but couldn’t get home because there was gridlock and the roads were blocked.
“There was no power, no water and my phone battery was running out.
“One of the main roads was like a river and people were ditching their cars.”
Kineta’s family and close friends have been accounted for but some her of former colleagues, who were in the CTV building, are still missing.
She continued: “The city is a mess. It couldn’t have got much worse after September but it’s been a really horrible day. It’s devastating.
“It’s going to be a really nervous night because we’ve felt aftershocks and there’s still no power in places.”
Live Blog: Dozens dead in New Zealand earthquake
Search and rescue teams are working through the night to try to retrieve people from the piles of rubble.
All army medical staff have been mobilised, while several hundred troops were helping with the rescue, officials said.
Around 200 people are still thought to be missing.
Grampian Fire and Rescue Service in Scotland is sending a team to New Zealand to provide assistance
A spokesman said the team were called after the Department for International Development (DFID) received an official request for assistance from the New Zealand government.
The New Zealand Red Cross is sending teams from around the country to help the authorities in challenging conditions.
The charity’s Paul Scoringe told Channel 4 News: “They have already had aftershocks and there’s the constant fear of more aftershocks which can hamper rescue crews.
This may be New Zealand’s darkest day. John Key, Prime Minister
“There are also challenges with telecommunications systems – the mobile networks were unable to cope with the volume of calls after the earthquake.”
Emergency shelters have been set up in local schools and at a race course.
The Foreign Office said it was “urgently” seeking information about British casualties.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We are in close touch with the local authorities an are urgently seeking information. The High Commission in Wellington have mobilised a consular response and stand ready to provide any consular assistance that is required.”
The British High Commission in Wellington confirmed buildings had collapsed, water pipes had burst and the Cathedral in the centre of the city had sustained damaged.
Spokesman Chris Harrington said: “The tremor has been classified as an aftershock and although it was not as strong as the quake last September, there have been reports of serious injuries. Its centre was about 10km outside Christchurch and 5km deep.
“The quake hit during the middle of the day, whereas the September incident happened at 4am in the morning so it has done more damage.”
The September 4 quake wrecked hundreds of buildings in the city causing an estimated four billion New Zealand dollars of damage.
A strong aftershock in December caused further damage to buildings.
The city was still rebuilding from those quakes when the latest one hit.
Prime Minister John Key held an emergency Cabinet meeting then rushed to the stricken city. “It is a just a scene of utter devastation,” he said, before revealing the death toll was 65, and may rise.
“This may be New Zealand’s darkest day,” he said.
Earlier he had said the disaster had struck at a time when the city was at its most populated, with people at work and children at school.
Mr Key said people were being told to get out of the city for their safety, while the airport was closed and Christchurch Hospital was evacuated.
New Zealand police said in a statement that there were reports that two buses had been crushed by falling buildings.
The Queen said today she was “utterly shocked” by the news of the earthquake in Christchurch and conveyed her “deep sympathy” to the families and friends of all those who had been killed.
The city is home to about 350,000 people and is considered a tourist centre and gateway to the South Island. There were other reports of fires burning in the city and people being trapped in buildings.
New Zealand sits on the Pacific “ring of fire” – an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching from Chile in South America through Alaska and down through the South Pacific.
It records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year – but only about 150 are felt by residents, and fewer than 10 a year do any damage.
British Nationals affected by the quake are asked to contact the Global Response Centre on 0044 20 7008 1500.