No one found trapped in N.Z. quake rubble

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- A search of the rubble of quake-damaged buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand, by emergency workers turned up no trapped residents, officials said Monday.

The Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management said the prime concern was ongoing aftershocks with "an extensive number" of tremors between magnitude 3.2 and 5.4 recorded.


A 12-hour curfew was imposed Sunday in Christchurch's business district while the safety assessment was made, TVNZ One News reported. Officials said the state of emergency would be re-evaluated Monday, adding inspectors were to determine whether it would be safe to re-open the business district, where about 90 buildings were damaged in Saturday's earthquake, TVNZ said.

No deaths were reported, but there were two serious injuries and many residents were driven from their homes by the 7.1 magnitude quake, and water and electrical services were still disrupted in parts of the city.

Fire service spokesman Graeme Mills said 30 teams from across New Zealand were involved in the safety assessment, with damaged buildings receiving red, yellow and green tags to designate the satus of each structure. There were 4,857 claims for damage to residential properties (as of 6:30 a.m. Monday) but the department was expecting a significant increase in claims through the next couple of days.


"Obviously we're looking at people wanting to get back into buildings quickly," Mills said. "(We) want to look at the economic situation for the central part of the city but at the end of the day somebody has to sign off on these buildings as well and we don't want anybody going into a building that collapses tomorrow."

Public health issues related to water supply are the main health concern. Sewerage and water supply infrastructure are affected in the low-lying areas of Christchurch and surrounding communities.

On the Canterbury Plains, where the earthquake occurred, rural communities were cleaning up.

The earthquake's punch rattled throughout the region, but as the aftershocks subsided, residents began returning to their homes.

Officials said more than a thousand people had called the government's earthquake helpline and others were seeking help at welfare centers established across the region.

New Zealand has strict building codes, which has been credited with protecting both buildings and people. The temblor was of the same magnitude as the one that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in January.

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