A powerful earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand during lunchtime on Tuesday, killing 65 people and destroying hundreds of homes and office buildings.
Many more have been injured in the earthquake and rescuers are still trying to free victims trapped under rubble.
“We may be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day,” Prime minister John Key told 3 News confirming the 65 deaths after the 6.3-magnitude quake.
Keys warned that the death toll will rise.
Christchurch’s main hospital, which sustained only minimal damage, is preparing for many more casualties. Some victims have already been airlifted to hospitals outside the earthquake zone.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has declared a state of emergency and said that rescue efforts will continue through the night.
The extent of destruction is still not known.
“Government agencies and emergency services are still putting together a picture of the damage,” New Zealand’s deputy prime minister, Bill English, said.
Many Christchurch residents are sheltering in temporary shelters tonight and most of the city is without electricity.
As rescue efforts battle on, strong aftershocks continue to shake Christchurch.
The earthquake has caused damage far worse than after the 7.1-magnitude quake which hit New Zealand on September 4, injuring two people but not causing any casualties.
The centre of Tuesday’s earthquake was about six miles from downtown Christchurch, and was only about three miles underground, possibly making it far more destructive.
The Ministry of Civil Defence are asking that in order to minimise loading on the telecommunications network, people use text messaging to check if family and friends are safe.
New Zealanders in the UK who are worried about family and friends should continue to monitor the above websites, media reports and try to make direct contact. Once a national helpline has been established that number will be provided via the websites above.
British nationals concerned for British family and friends in New Zealand should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for consular advice: fco.gov.uk