Two Dead After Earthquake Rocks New Zealand

Nadia Bokody

A tsunami warning was issued after an earthquake sent shock waves through NZ’s South Island.

Just after midnight on Sunday, NZST, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand’s South Island, cutting power off for thousands and killing two people.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told media at a press conference in the Island’s capital, Wellington, where the quake was also felt, that the death toll was still being tallied.

“We don’t have any indications at the moment to believe it [the death toll] will rise, but we can’t rule that out,” he said.

Police have confirmed one of the victims was found in a house in the coastal town of Kaikoura, near the epicenter of the quake, which is about 110 miles north-east of Christchurch.

“A number of buildings will need to be assessed before they can be occupied and I understand the Wellington City Council have advised people they should stay away from CBD buildings for a time this morning to ensure those buildings are inspected and declared safe,” acting civil defence minister, Gerry Brownlee said.

Thousands of homes remain affected, with power and phone lines down and some houses with smashed windows and damaged chimneys.

A Geonet map showing the areas most affected by the quake.
A Geonet map showing the areas most affected by the quake.

“[Earthquakes] are a common occurrence but this one was particularly long and protracted,” Australian journalist Gemma Snowdon, who was living north of Christchurch at the time of the earthquake, told ABC News.

“I have been hearing sirens and alarms going off throughout the city. I think everyone is a bit shaken up by this.”

The quake led to waves up to six feet high, provoking a tsunami warning which caused thousands of residents in the country’s east coat to flee to higher ground.

The Civil Defence Ministry described the tsunami as “an event of life-threatening or national significance”, sending a tweet out warning residents, ‘A tsunami has been generated, the first wave has arrived in the North Eastern Coast of the South Island. If you are in a low lying area on the East Coast of the North, South or Chatham Islands move immediately to higher ground.’.

This isn’t the first time the area has been shaken by natural disaster. In February 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake killed 185 people, causing widespread damage throughout Christchurch. New Zealand is situated on an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean known as ‘The Ring Of Fire’, where earthquakes are common.

Comment: Do you know anyone in New Zealand who’s been affected by the quake?