Sunday, 24 Sep, 2023


Emergency extended in quake-hit New Zealand city

International Desk |
Update: 2010-09-05 14:21:14
Emergency extended in quake-hit New Zealand city

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand extended a state of emergency in earthquake-hit Christchurch Monday as troops enforced a no-go zone amid reports of looting in the country`s second-biggest city.

Authorities said strong aftershocks continued to rock Christchurch following the 7.0-magnitude quake on Saturday, which caused extensive damage estimated at two billion dollars (1.44 billion US).

Troops were called in to relieve exhausted police manning checkpoints sealing off the city centre, with the civil defence ministry saying the area remained closed due to danger from falling masonry and glass.

"The state of emergency has been extended until midday Wednesday (0000 GMT)," a ministry spokesman told AFP.

Schools, shops and businesses were closed and residents were advised to stay at home until inspections of the more than 500 buildings damaged by the quake were completed.

A night-time curfew has been imposed since Saturday after initial reports of looting.

Christchurch police superintendent Dave Cliff told Radio New Zealand that a number of "known criminals" were arrested as they attempted to enter the central business district posing as council workers.

A judge warned that anyone caught looting would be viewed "as being people who were capable of anything" and could expect harsh treatment from the courts.

"Fortunately, the dominant mood of the town is one of help, assistance and support," judge Michael Crosbie told Christchurch District Court.

About 200 people whose homes were uninhabitable spent the night in shelters.

Officials warned it would be some time before life returned to normal in the city of 340,000 people following the country`s most destructive quake in almost 80 years.

"This isn`t a short-term thing," said Prime Minister John Key, who was scheduled to hold a cabinet meeting Monday to fast-track arrangements to restore Christchurch`s damaged infrastructure.

Key is expected to appoint a special commissioner to oversee rebuilding efforts.

Business owners were among the few people allowed into the city centre so they could assess damage to their properties.

Buildings deemed too dangerous to enter, many of which are likely to be torn down, were marked with red tags by structural engineers.

About one-fifth of the city`s homes were without running water and authorities were bringing in supplies by train.

The civil defence ministry advised residents whose taps were working to boil drinking water because of possible contamination from burst pipes.

However, emergency workers gained some relief when a massive storm that was feared would topple already weakened buildings failed to arrive.

The break in the weather eased fears of flooding in Christchurch, although it remained a danger in the wider Canterbury region and 150 people were evacuated from a caravan park near the town of Kaiapoi as a precaution.

Despite the weekend`s destruction, New Zealand`s share market shrugged off the earthquake`s impact, with the benchmark NZX-50 index opening up 0.54 percent at 3,124.102 points on Monday.

But Canterbury chamber of commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said some businesses in the region would struggle to survive.

"The cost, who knows? It`ll be very, very significant," he told national radio.

BDST: 0956 HRS, September 06, 2010

All rights reserved. Sale, redistribution or reproduction of information/photos/illustrations/video/audio contents on this website in any form without prior permission from are strictly prohibited and liable to legal action.