New Zealanders have been shocked by the biggest earthquake most have ever experienced.
A 7.1 magnitude quake hit the Canterbury region of the South Island in the early hours of Saturday morning September 4, driving people from their beds and causing millions of dollars in damage to buildings, roads, bridges, water and sewage ways in the region.
“This was terrifying, 4.35 in the morning and people couldn’t stand; they were knocked to the floor,” said Michael Brown of Bishopdale, Christchurch. "I know we’re known as the shaky isles over here, but this is bigger than just about everybody has experienced."
The most powerful earthquake recorded in New Zealand occurred in January 1855 around Wellington in the North Island, with an estimated magnitude of 8.2, according to GeoNet, an earthquake-monitoring site. About 5,000 square kilometres of land were shifted up.
A 7.8 quake occurred at Dusky Sound, again on the South Island, in 2008 but because of the “rolling” nature and slow frequency of the quake, little damage or shock was experienced, said GeoNet.
Mr. Brown said the recent quake appeared to be “just short of a catastrophe.”
“It was big enough to damage lots of buildings, but not too many people have been seriously injured. We have had the facades of buildings break away—many, many chimneys are down. The chimneys just fell straight through the roof and some of them through into bedrooms.
“It says something about the design of houses, I suppose,” he added.
According to Radio New Zealand, a Christchurch Hospital spokeswoman has said a number of people have presented with injuries and two people–both men in their 50’s—have been seriously injured, one hit by a falling chimney.
The chimneys just fell straight through the roof and some of them through into bedrooms.
Otherwise there have been no reports of any one being killed as a result of the quake.
Meanwhile a state of emergency has been called and Christchurch has been closed to the public as parts of buildings have collapsed and water and sewerage have been exposed.
Douglas Brown, who lives in Christchurch, says his house suffered some minor damage and there are cracks in the road but he has got off lightly.
“We’re in the inner city, but not in the business district. That has been hit quite hard. For instance, the Repertory Theatre which is quite old has collapsed. There are buildings which have collapsed, but apparently in the inner city a lot of the damage can’t be seen; it's internal walls that have collapsed,” he told The Epoch Times.
Some rural areas have also been hit badly with reports of damage to roads, bridges and buildings.
One farmer at Darfield, near the reported epicentre of the quake 45km south of Christchurch, told Radio New Zealand it was so powerful he was taken off his feet.
"My wife and I just heard the noise and woke up. By the time we were on the floor running for the children ... we just got shook to the floor—the earthquake was just that powerful."
Ray Connel, owner of the Darfield Hotel, about 50km inland from Christchurch, said people were telling him they had been tossed out of bed and televisions thrown to the floor. He told Radio New Zealand that farmers in the area may have lost $15,000 and more worth of stock.
Mr. Brown said he was still experiencing aftershocks from the quake.
"Well, the aftershocks are decreasing in the frequency, but they are still very unnerving,” he said.