New Zealand has officially declared the Christchurch earthquake a national disaster. Two people were rescued since our last report, but hopes are fading that anyone else is still alive.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr John Key, said this morning that the emergency response in the area is now focusing on recovering the dead. However, rescuers are still searching a few places in hope that someone may still be alive.
It is now Thursday morning in New Zealand, and it is day three of the disaster that devastatedÂ the Canterbury district of Christchurch, New Zealand, when it was hit by aÂ 6.3 magnitude earthquake.
This quake comes five months after a bigger earthquake, 7.1Â on the Richter scale, which did less damage and killed no-one.Â The difference is the earlier quake was further away and 30 miles deep. This quake was very close and only three miles below Christchurch, which is New Zealand’s oldest city.
The death toll is the same, at 75. But it is now more than 300 people are trapped in collapsed buildings. There are 17 casualties fighting for their lives in intensive care. So far, 120 people have been rescued.
The affected Canterbury area of Christchurch has been cordoned off by New Zealand defence force personnel who are helping local police. The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is sending 300 police to New Zealand to help as well.
A curfew was imposed in the Canterbury area of Christchurch last night, and many areas of the city looked like a ghost town with rubble in the street and no power to many buildings. Water supplies have been damaged and contaminated, so many locals are having to queue for water from standpipes or from water tankers which have been sent in from outside towns.
People in the affected area have been told they must boil all water for at least three minutes before they drink any of it.
Emergency services services have been working all night searching through the debris of destroyed office blocks, searching for survivors and rescuing two people overnight – a man and a women. The man was carried out on a stretcher, but amazingly, the woman was able to walk out unassisted once firemen removed the rubble that had trapped her.
Hundreds of rescue specialists are on the way to Christchurch from Australia’s Northern Territory, the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. New South Wales and Queensland already sent teams to help their neighbors across the Tasman sea.
Two hundred members of the NZ Defence Forces are helping NZ police lock down and patrol the area. Australian rescue specialists and paramedics from New South Wales are on scene helping local emergency services handle the rescue and recovery work and others rescuers from Queensland are expected to arrive later in the day.
Several hundred engineers are also in the city, because many had been inspecting damage from last year’s earthquake. They are now helping check which buildings are likely to fall down. There is also a very real danger of further aftershocks, which are likely to cause many already-damaged buildings to fall down.
One very unstable building, with big cracks visible, is the 27-storey Grand Chancellor Hotel. It is right next to the pancakedÂ CTV Building where authorities now fear 100 people may have been entombed. There are seven buildings in the quake zone where rescuers still hope there may be one or two survivors,
If the big hotel collapses, anyone nearby would probably be killed. However, authorities have said there are no survivors left in the CTV Building, only the dead.
The 2010 Christchurch earthquake is estimated to have done $7 billion damage, but the damage from the 2011 Christchurch earthquake is at least $12 billion.
Editor’s note: This is the morning sitrep and it is already out of date. You can read the afternoon sitrep here:Â /christchurch-earthquake-pm-sitrep-2011-02-24-video-889062.html