New Zealand earthquake: Christchurch deaths rise to 75

Christchurch quake victims rescued from the rubble

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has declared a national state of emergency as the death toll from Tuesday's earthquake in Christchurch rose to 75.

Police have said there is "incredible carnage right throughout the city", with "bodies littering the streets".

More than 300 people are still missing. Forty-eight were pulled out from collapsed buildings alive overnight.

The search has now been abandoned at one office block, but elsewhere a woman was rescued after more than 24 hours.

"The situation is that we don't believe this site is now survivable," said police area commander Inspector Dave Lawry near the remains of the Canterbury Television building. "It was a hard choice and my heart goes out to all the families."

At the scene

The primary focus is on rescuing survivors buried beneath mounds of grey rubble.

Some of the major office buildings in Christchurch were virtually flattened in the earthquake. It has been a slow and delicate rescue effort, using both heavy lifting equipment and hand tools.

The rescuers have had some success, pulling at least four survivors from one collapsed office block. One woman was brought out after 25 hours spent crouching under a desk.

With sporadic aftershocks impeding the rescue effort and shaking already badly damaged buildings, there have also been fears for the structural viability of one of the tallest buildings in Christchurch.

With the death toll expected to climb further, the New Zealand government has declared a national state of emergency.

He said rescuers now needed to concentrate their resources elsewhere in areas where survivors were more likely to be found.

About 100 people are believed to be inside. Earlier, the head of the fire service denied reports that 15 people trapped inside had been rescued.

The building housed a language school and Insp Lawry said some foreign students would be among the dead there.

At the Pyne Gould Guinness building, cheers were heard as office worker Ann Bodkin was pulled out alive on Wednesday afternoon, after being trapped for more than 24 hours, and reunited with her waiting husband.

The authorities have imposed a night-time curfew in the worst-affected areas of the city.

The earthquake struck at a shallow depth of 5km (3.1 miles) on Tuesday at 1251 local time (2351 GMT on Monday), when the South Island city was at its busiest.

It was Christchurch's second major tremor in five months, and New Zealand's deadliest natural disaster in 80 years.

CLICKABLE Select the images for more details.

Bexley, Christchurch, New Zealand Pyne Gould Guinness, Christchurch, New Zealand Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand CTV, Christchurch, New Zealand Oxford terrace, Christchurch, New Zealand

Bexley

Bexley,  Christchurch, New Zealand

Streets in the north-eastern suburb of Bexley were flooded as the quake caused water mains to burst, which coincided with heavy rain.

Pyne Gould Guinness

Pyne Gould Guinness

The multi-storey Pyne Gould Guinness Building, which normally houses around 200 workers, collapsed. A number of people were thought to be trapped inside.

Cathedral

Cathedral,  Christchurch, New Zealand

The 63m spire of the city's Anglican cathedral was toppled by the earthquake. A New Zealand TV reporter took a look inside the damaged building.

CTV building

CTV building, Christchurch, New Zealand

Part of Christchurch's Canterbury Television [CTV] building completely collapsed in the earthquake. Some 24 people have been rescued from the building, but police said there might be between 60 and 120 bodies trapped underneath.

Oxford Terrace

Oxford terrace,  Christchurch, New Zealand

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Rhys Taylor took this video on Oxford Terrace, 50 metres away from the city's main hospital. He said: "Cars were being used as ambulances to transport the injured."

Prime Minister John Key, who grew up in Christchurch, declared a national state of emergency after a cabinet meeting in the capital, Wellington. He said it would allow the greatest possible co-ordination of local, national, and international resources to work on rescue and recovery efforts.

He told residents of Christchurch that New Zealanders felt "your pain as only a small nation can".

"Things will get better. Christchurch will rise again," he added. "This country is right behind you and we are backing you with all of our might."

'Incredible carnage'

Mr Key ordered that the country's flag be flown at half-mast on all public buildings until further notice to honour the victims.

He said he he hoped that the city would still be able to host its allotment of games for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in September-October.

Analysis

By nature, earthquakes tend to cluster in space and time. And Tuesday's tremor in Christchurch is almost certainly related to the much more energetic event that hit the region last September.

The critical difference on this occasion is the ground broke almost directly under the country's second city, and at shallow depth, 5km (three miles) below the surface.

Contrast this with September's magnitude 7 quake: its epicentre occurred some 40km west of the city and at a depth of 10km, and it continued to rupture mainly away from the major built-up areas.

New Zealand lies on the notorious Ring of Fire, the line of frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.

The country straddles the boundary between two tectonic plates: the Pacific and Indo-Australian plates. On the South Island, the location of the latest quake, the plates rub past each other horizontally.

"It's a very important city to New Zealand and it would be a demonstration that Christchurch is back up on its feet."

More than 500 search and rescue personnel, police, fire service staff, soldiers and volunteers have been scrambling to find survivors trapped under the rubble, many using only their bare hands.

Christchurch's main hospital was inundated with people suffering head and chest injuries, a spokesperson said.

"There are bodies littering the streets, they are trapped in cars and crushed under rubble," Police Supt Russell Gibson said.

"We are getting texts and tapping sounds from some of these buildings and that's where our focus is," he added.

"It's quite amazing, we have some people we've pulled out and they haven't got so much as a scratch on them, we've had other people where we've had to amputate limbs to get them out."

The ministry of civil defence said 22 people alone were missing in Christchurch Cathedral, which lost its spire and a section of roof. Police say there has been no sign of life from underneath the rubble.

Twenty-four others have been rescued from the Pyne Gould Guinness building and dogs have detected another four or five still alive. The earthquake flattened the four-storey structure where hundreds worked.

'Total darkness'

One foreign student, 19-year-old Kento Okuda from Japan, had his leg cut off to allow his rescue from the CTV building.

A man is escorted by a rescue worker after being pulled from a destroyed building in Christchurch, 23 February 2011 Dozens of people have been rescued from the rubble

"As we were eating lunch, there was a major shaking, and suddenly the floor fell," he told Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

"Everyone around me was saying things like 'It hurts' as they fell downward," he said.

"And then I realized I was in total darkness, with my right leg pinned by something so I couldn't move."

Rescuers have also put a cordon around the city's second tallest building, the Hotel Grand Chancellor, because it is threatening to collapse.

Emergency shelters have been set up and schools have been closed until buildings are assessed for risk.

About 80% of people in Christchurch are without water, reports the New Zealand Herald.

New Zealand experiences more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which only around 20 have a magnitude greater than 5.0.

Tuesday's was the country's worst natural disaster since a 1931 quake in Hawke's Bay on the North Island killed 256 people.

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