UPDATE:30PM Thick mud has again filled the streets of Christchurch as the shattered New Zealand city suffers the most violent and damaging spate of aftershocks since the deadly February quake.
UPDATE: 3PM New Zealand’s earthquake-devastated southern city of Christchurch has been rocked by yet another huge quake, the most violent and destructive series of aftershocks to hit since the February 22 disaster killed 181 people.
The South Island capital was hit with a series of aftershocks today, with the three biggest measuring 4.4, 5.5 and 6.0 in magnitude.
Christchurch residents have been warned to brace for a fresh spate of violent aftershocks triggered by a chain of damaging tremors that hit the devastated city today.
Dozens of fed-up families are expected to leave New Zealand’s southern city for good after terrifying quakes.
The three quakes hit within two hours on Monday afternoon and were and centred 10km southeast of Christchurch at a depth of 9km.
The last and most violent of them, which hit at 2.20pm (10.20pm WST), left quake-weary residents shocked, uncertain and recalling the terror of the February 22 quake which killed 181 people.
There have been no reports of deaths but 10 people have been taken to hospital with moderately serious injuries caused by falling building material.
Dust billowed from the cordoned-off inner city and power was cut to more than 10,000 homes in the city’s east.
Locals have told Radio New Zealand of “crazy rolling roads” and “everything falling off the benches and smashing”.
Several supermarkets, two shopping malls, a university and the airport were evacuated as a precaution.
An inquest being held to investigate deaths in the February quake was disrupted by the shakes, while the offices of the newly-formed Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, charged with rebuilding the city, were also evacuated.
Television footage showed thick mud, known as liquefaction, pouring down some streets in the suburb of Sumner, covering car tyres and causing traffic congestion as residents tried to get to their families and check damage to their homes.
Rock falls were threatening some homes and several already-damaged buildings in the CBD, including the iconic ChristChurch Cathedral, were believed to have suffered more damage in the latest quake.
Two workers who were salvaging windows from St John’s Church, badly damaged in February, had to be rescued when the building’s facade collapsed. The pair was taken to hospital with cuts and bruises.
Reports suggested damage was slight compared to the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit on February 22, damaging 100,000 homes and leaving the CBD in ruins.
However, today’s quakes were clearly the most vicious series of aftershocks to hit since that quake, with the two largest felt as far away as Wellington, Queenstown and Dunedin.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker described today’s 6.0 quake as “very, very scary”.
“Thank God, we had evacuated the whole of red zone, there’s been quite clearly a more significant building collapse in there,” Parker told Radio New Zealand.
“We are just now being enveloped by dust blowing out of the central city, we are just outside the cordon.
“This time a plethora of sirens have gone off ... car signs, building sirens, it’s just terrible.”
Mr Parker told Radio New Zealand it was “logical” to conclude that some of the city’s remaining residents would join the 50,000 who have already relocated to Australia and other New Zealand cities.
“People will make decisions for their own wellbeing and they have every right to do so,” he said.
“We are living in a pretty uncertain space at the moment.”
Jennifer Jones, a University of Canterbury law student, was on the second floor of the library when the quake hit.
“It started off not too bad but then all the books started flying off the shelves. You’ve got 11 floors above you so everyone got out pretty quickly,” she told Fairfax New Zealand.