A strong earthquake struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, rattling buildings, sending goods tumbling from shelves and prompting terrified holiday shoppers to flee into the streets. There was no tsunami alert issued and the city appeared to have been spared major damage.
One person was injured at a city mall and was taken to a hospital, Christchurch police said in a statement. But there were no immediate reports of serious injuries or widespread damage in the city, which is still recovering from a devastating February earthquake that killed 182 people and destroyed much of the downtown area.
The 5.8-magnitude quake struck on Friday afternoon some 26 km north of Christchurch at a depth of 4 km, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake was followed by a series of sharp aftershocks, including one with a magnitude of 5.3 and a depth of just 3 km.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre did not issue an alert.
The city’s airport was evacuated and all city malls shut down as a precaution.
Warwick Isaacs, demolitions manager for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, said most buildings had been evacuated “as an emergency measure.” The area has recorded more than 7,000 earthquakes since a magnitude-7 quake rocked the city on September 4, 2010. That quake did not cause any deaths.
Rock falls had occurred in one area and there was liquefaction when earthquake forces underground water up through loose soil in several places, Mr. Isaacs told New Zealand’s National Radio.
“There has been quite a lot of stuff falling out of cupboards, off shelves in shops and that sort of thing, again,” he said.
Mr. Isaacs said his immediate concern was for demolition workers involved in tearing down buildings wrecked in previous quakes.
“It... started slow then really got going. It was a big swaying one but not as jolting or as violent as in February,” Christchurch resident Rita Langley said. “Everyone seems fairly chilled, though the traffic buildup sounds like a beehive that has just been kicked as everyone leaves (the) town (centre).”
The shaking was severe in the nearby port town of Lyttelton, the epicentre of the February 22 quake.
“We stayed inside until the shaking stopped. Then most people went out into the street outside,” resident Andrew Turner said. “People are emotionally shocked by what happened this afternoon.”
About 15,000 homes were reported without power after electricity lines were felled in the city’s eastern suburbs. Sewerage services were also cut. Hundreds of miles of sewer and fresh water lines have been repaired in the city since the February quake.