Big 5.1 aftershock causes more damage in quake-hit Christchurch

David Barber

Wellington (dpa) – A magnitude 5.1 aftershock struck earthquake-ravaged Christchurch Wednesday, causing fresh damage to buildings, cutting power supplies and sending terrified people out into the streets.

Reports said it was the most sharply-felt of more than 100 aftershocks since Saturday’s devastating 7.1 tremor, which was the most damaging quake to hit a New Zealand city in nearly 90 years.

Guests at city hotels were asked to leave their rooms after cracks appeared in walls and the civil defence emergency headquarters in the city’s art gallery, which has huge glass walls, was evacuated.

City Council spokeswoman Diane Keenan told the Stuff news website, “The jolt was absolutely huge. A really big, stiff, jolt.

“And it was vertical, rather than side to side like the first one. If you were in a car the road moved up and down.”

The tremor at 7:49 am was the biggest of 12 aftershocks over magnitude-3.4 to rock the city in the previous 12 hours.

News reports said the nerves of Christchurch’s near 400,000 residents were being stretched to breaking point by the constant aftershocks, with children scared of every sound and adults increasingly traumatised.

Police urged people to stay clear of already damaged buildings for fear the aftershocks would dislodge more masonry and glass and said structures that had been inspected and declared safe would need to be inspected again.

A state of emergency continued in the city, where about 100,000 of 160,000 houses have been damaged and all schools remained closed.