The Queen has sent her condolences to the victims and survivors of the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand.

“I have been utterly shocked by the news of another earthquake in Christchurch. Please convey my deep sympathy to the families and friends of those who have been killed; my thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this dreadful event,” she said in a statement on her website.

“My thoughts are also with the emergency services and everyone who is assisting in the rescue efforts.”

Eyewitnesses said the three-mile deep tremor, believed to be an aftershock from a 7.1 magnitude earthquake which struck last September, levelled high-rise buildings, tore up footpaths and sprayed rubble onto the streets below.

A state of emergency has been declared in the city with collapsed debris and buildings trapping an unknown number of people.

Prime minister John Key held an emergency Cabinet meeting, then rushed to the stricken city.

“It is a just a scene of utter devastation,” he said, before revealing the death toll was 65, and may rise. “This may be New Zealand’s darkest day,” he told a local news channel.

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