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Updated: September 5, 2010 15:00 IST

Aftershocks, bad weather hamper Christchurch relief

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Rubble and debris surround a damaged telephone booth on Sunday following the powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Rubble and debris surround a damaged telephone booth on Sunday following the powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Christchurch continued to rock Sunday with aftershocks from the previous day’s devastating 7.1—magnitude earthquake, as city residents were warned that forecast gale force winds and rain could worsen their situation.

Civil defence officials urged those able to make temporary repairs to their damaged homes to act as quickly as possible, because wind and flying debris could make it too dangerous by later Sunday.

Many in the city had a sleepless night, with seismologists recording 20 substantial aftershocks in the 12 hours to 8 am, the largest of 5.1—magnitude on the Richter scale.

About 250 people spent the night in welfare centres set up for those whose homes were wrecked by the most devastating earthquake to hit a major New Zealand population centre in nearly 90 years.

One family including eight children in the rural town of Darfield, which was at the epicentre of Saturday’s pre—dawn quake, spent the night huddled under their dining table fearing an aftershock of similar size, Radio New Zealand reported. Civil defence officials estimated that more than 500 commercial buildings in Christchurch were damaged by the quake.

This includes about 90 buildings in the central business district, where an overnight curfew was imposed because of the continued danger of falling masonry and glass from crumbling properties.

About 8,000 residents of inner—city apartments were allowed to remain. Police, who maintained a cordon around the centre, said they arrested several people trying to get into the area, presumably to loot shops and businesses, during the night.

Army units have been put on standby to help, and a state of emergency is likely to remain in place for several days in the city of nearly 400,000 people.

Jon Mitchell of the Canterbury Emergency Management Office urged people to remain in their homes and avoid non—essential travel.

Those whose homes were too badly damaged should arrange to stay with friends or relatives for at least the next 24 to 48 hours and possibly longer, he said.

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