The Foreign Minister is in communication with Maldivians in Christchurch, New Zealand, after an earthquake measuring 6.3 of the Richter scale the city killing at least 65 people, toppling buildings, buckling roads and damaged cathedrals with further casualties likely.
CNN quoted New Zealand Prime Minister John Key saying “this may be New Zealand’s darkest day,” during a trip to the area to survey the damage from the quake.
”Frantic rescuers scrambled to reach those trapped in the rubble hours after the earthquake struck. Scores of dazed, bleeding residents wandered streets strewn with debris and chunks of concrete,” said CNN.
“Having experienced received the warm reception of the people of Christchurch at the Partnership Forum only hours before the earthquake struck makes this disaster all the more personal and poignant,” said delegate Donald Manzullo, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, reported CNN.
New Zealand’s transit authority said it had been unable to reach its staff in Christchurch and at the Lyttleton Tunnel, which is near the epicenter.
A person who witnessed the incident told CNN “it felt like I was running on jelly, we saw a giant rock tumble to the ground from a cliff – a rock that had been there for millennia. It fell on the RSA (Returned Services Association, a veterans’ association) building — it was terrifying.”
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told Radio New Zealand that the rumbling tossed him across the room. He said the streets were jammed as people tried to get out of the city, and urged people to avoid the water supply.
The New Zealand Police have said that ”Sixty five people are so far believed to have lost their lives in today’s 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch and officials warn this figure is likely to rise.”
Emergency services are continuing to search the central city, particularly the high rise buildings in the central business district, many of which have been extensively damaged, said New Zealand Police on their website.
The Lyttelton raod tunnel road that links the city Christchurch and its seaport, was immediately closed after the earthquake, but was opened later for emergency transportation.
Minivan News spoke to a Maldivian who was recently studying in New Zealand, who said that none of the approximately 30 Maldivians living in the city had been hurt.
”I checked today and no Maldivian was injured during the incident,” he told Minivan News.
A Maldivian studying at Christchurch Polytechnic in the middle of the city told newspaper Haveeru that she ran down the stairs from the fourth floor classroom she was about to enter when the earthquake struck.
“There was dust and smoke billowing from the buildings around, and I saw injured people running. In the midst of the devastation I had to walk back home, which took more than one and a half hours. I was so concerned about my son, as he was home alone,” she said.
Haveeru also reported that some Maldivian families are without water and power, “which would lead them to spend the night without heating, and in cold in a city where the temperature is constantly about 12 degree Celsius.”