65 dead, hundreds trapped after earthquake hits New Zealand (UPDATES) (VIDEO)


A bus covered in building debris is seen in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Feb. 22, 2011, after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the city.


Martin Hunter

A major earthquake hit New Zealand's south island city of Christchurch Tuesday afternoon, reportedly killing 65 people and leaving hundreds trapped.

The 6.3-magnitude quake is the second earthquake to hit Christchurch in five months.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said 65 people had died in the earthquake. ''The death toll I have at the moment is 65 and that may rise. So it's an absolute tragedy for this city, for New Zealand, for the people that we care so much about,'' Key told TVNZ. ''It's a terrifying time for the people of Canterbury.''

He added: "We may be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day."

Two aftershocks later Tuesday sent survivors scrambling for safety.

The dead include passengers on two buses that collapsed after buildings fell on them, CNN reports. It has also damaged the town's iconic cathedral.

The New Zealand Police called for a large-scale evacuation of the city. The hospital was evacuated, the airport was closed, phone lines were down and fires had broken out.

"It was bloody serious," Laura Campbell, who was trying to walk home during the quake, told CNN. "I'm worried about what I'm going to find down the road." She said she earlier saw "windows blowing out, bricks falling down, people screaming, the whole nine yards."

The quake has also left people trapped inside buildings. Efforts to rescue those trapped in buildings will now be the major concern, according to a fire brigade spokesman. Aftershocks may make the rescue efforts more difficult.

The city has also run out of ambulances to take people to hospitals, according to reports.

The quake, which hit just before 1 p.m. local time, may be particularly damaging due to its depth and location.

“It was very shallow and might have been very close to the center of the city,” Vince Cholewa, a Civil Defense spokesman, told the New York Times.

A 7.1 quake hit the area in September but caused no casualties.

The New Zealand Herald is live blogging the aftermath of the quake.


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