Sharp quake rattles New Zealand city

An earthquake rattled the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Tuesday, cutting power and phone service.

Wellington: An earthquake rattled the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Tuesday, cutting power and phone service and sending some residents running into the streets just weeks after a more powerful quake caused extensive damage.

The magnitude 5.0 temblor was one of hundreds of aftershocks that have hit the city since a magnitude-7 quake on September 4 that wrecked thousands of homes, tore up farmland but did not kill anyone. The latest one shook buildings and sent objects tumbling from shelves, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

"Very scary," said cafe owner Flick Holmes. "It definitely was a very big one. Everything rocked. Just when you think you`re getting used to it, (another) goes," she said.

Prime Minister John Key told reporters he was concerned for the city`s residents who "just want the aftershocks to come to an end".

Tuesday`s quake was centred six miles (10 kilometres) southwest of the city and just five miles (nine kilometres) below the surface, New Zealand`s geological agency GNS Science said. It was felt strongly because it was so shallow, agency seismologist Bill Fry told New Zealand`s National Radio.

Electricity and phone service were cut to several parts of the city, and a number of buildings in the city centre were evacuated, civil defence officials said.

"All our china is smashed in our kiosk," said Fiona Fidow at the Cupcake Collection shop in Westfield Mall in suburban Riccarton.

"The mall has been evacuated. Quite a few people are crying and hysterical. There are a lot of frightened people," she told the "Stuff" news web site.

About 300 workers were evacuated from a construction site at Christchurch International Airport, while the airport itself reopened after it was closed briefly so engineers could check its runways for cracks.

Officials have estimated that 50,000 homes in the city need major repairs from the earlier quake, with some 1,200 houses likely to be demolished and rebuilt. They have estimated that the full bill for quake damage could reach 4 billion New Zealand dollars (USD 2.9 billion).

Bureau Report