Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Zealand: Struck by Worst National Disaster Ever?

« Rescuers search for survivors in a collapsed building in Manchester Street on February 22, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
(Getty Images)
Christchurch, New Zealand, lay in ruins on Tuesday after an earthquake turned buildings into rubble. At least 75 people are dead and many more are trapped in what may be the country’s “darkest day,” according to the nation’s leader.
“It is just a scene of utter devastation,” said Prime Minister John Key after viewing the aftermath of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake. “We may well be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day.”
New Zealand’s second-largest city suffered extreme damage due to the shallow nature of the earthquake. Located just 3 miles from city center at a depth of only 2.5 miles, it caused severe shaking. It was the second quake in five months, but the previous 7.1 magnitude quake caused less damage because it was located much deeper.
The government has declared a state of emergency and soldiers have been deployed for search and rescue as well as to help maintain order. Officials have asked people to stay at home and conserve food and water supplies. Large swaths of the city are underwater after major water main breaks. Some parts of the city suffered liquefaction, in which the soggy ground turned into quicksand due to the shaking. Communications are down in many areas, although some trapped people have managed to call for help on cell phones.
At least nine major buildings completely pancaked, and an untold number of other structures suffered severe damage. Many historical buildings and churches are ruined. The spire of the city’s well-known stone cathedral was toppled. Manchester Street looks like a war zone.
Glaciologists say the quake was so powerful that it knocked an astounding 30 million tons of ice off the Tasman glacier and into its lake—causing waves up to 11 feet high to reverberate around the shoreline. The Tasman glacier is located 120 miles from the epicenter.