City rocked as latest tremors hit New Zealand

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A series of strong earthquakes struck Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday, rattling buildings, sending goods tumbling from shelves and prompting terrified Christmas shoppers to flee into the streets.

One person was injured at a mall and four people had to be rescued after being trapped by a rock fall, police said.

However there were no immediate reports of serious injuries or widespread damage in the city still recovering from the devastating February earthquake that killed 182 people and destroyed much of the central area.

The first 5.8-magnitude quake struck in the afternoon local time, 16 miles north of Christchurch and 2.5 miles deep, the US Geological Survey said.

Minutes later, a 5.3-magnitude aftershock hit and about an hour after that, the city was shaken by another 5.8-magnitude tremor.

Both aftershocks were less than three miles deep.

The city’s airport was evacuated after the first quake and all city malls shut down as a precaution.

Warwick Isaacs, demolitions manager for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, said most buildings had been evacuated “as an emergency measure”.

The area has recorded more than 7,000 earthquakes since a magnitude-7 quake rocked the city on September 4 last year.

That quake did not cause any deaths.

Rock falls had occurred in one area and there was liquefaction – when an earthquake forces underground water up through loose soil – in several places, Mr Isaacs told New Zealand’s National Radio.

“There has been quite a lot of stuff falling out of cupboards, off shelves in shops and that sort of thing, again,” he said.

Mr Isaacs said his immediate concern was for demolition workers involved in tearing down buildings wrecked in previous quakes.

“It ... started slow then really got going. It was a big swaying one but not as jolting or as violent as in February,” resident Rita Langley said.

About 15,000 homes were without power after electricity lines were came down in the city’s eastern suburbs. Sewage services were also cut.

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