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article imageChristchurch facing aftershocks and strong winds

By Sharon Davis     Sep 4, 2010 in World
Christchurch - The magnitude 7.1 earthquake that shook Christchurch in the early hours of Saturday morning is expected to be followed by strong aftershocks, and fierce winds have been forecast for Sunday afternoon raising concerns for newly damaged buildings.
According to TVNZ dozens of aftershocks occurred in the first few hours after the quake and are likely to continue for weeks.
GNS Science duty seismologist, John Ristau, said typically the largest aftershocks occurred within the first 48 hours of a large earthquake.
In the first 15 hours, there were 28 aftershocks over magnitude 4, ranging up to 5.4. The largest aftershock with a magnitude of 5.4 was felt shortly after 5.30pm.
GNS Science in Wellington - which changed its initial calculations of a 7.4 magnitude shake 30km west of Christchurch to a 7.1 shake 40 km west - said it could not confirm the mechanisms of the earthquake but there is speculation that the quake was actually two or three earthquakes occurring in short succession.
Seismologists said a foreshock of about magnitude 5.4 occurred a few seconds before the main shock and seismic energy from the two shocks became entangled making it difficult to pinpoint the size, location, and depth of the main shock.
The NZ Herald reports scientists are investigating whether the 7.1 magnitude earthquake which struck Christchurch and its surrounding communities today was actually two or three shocks in quick succession.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) in Golden, Colorado, has said that scientists are still trying to reconstruct the way today's quake played out.
"We think that this is a very complex event," said geophysicist Paul Caruso. "We think that the main shock may have consisted actually of three earthquakes."
A curfew has been imposed in the central city overnight to ensure everyone remains safe. There is concern that the aftershocks might cause further damage or dislodge parts of buildings that have been structurally damaged.
The Herald says that severe winds predicted across Canterbury could see more building collapses following today's powerful earthquake, according to WeatherWatch.co.nz.
With numerous buildings badly damaged, strong gusts could see more brick walls and roofs come down, according to analyst Philip Duncan.
TVNZ reports severe winds predicted for tomorrow may be strong enough to further damage already fragile buildings.
Many homes have been exposed to the weather which is forecast to take a turn for the worse with gales, and possibly hurricane force winds inland, predicted for Sunday afternoon.
Ninety-one buildings in the city centre are of deep concern to emergency authorities as the extent of the damage is further revealed.
District commander Superintendent Dave Cliff told TVNZ that it's very dangerous inside the cordons.
He said after a major earthquake there's a risk of big aftershocks and authorities don't want more injuries.
Miraculously nobody was injured in the early morning quake. TVNZ says two people are in hospital with serious injuries and hundreds of minor injuries were reported.
Experts are amazed no lives were lost although two people were seriously injured - one by falling glass and the other hit by one of the hundreds of chimneys that toppled all over the region.
The damages are estimated to be in the region of NZ$ 2 billion and prime minister John Key said the government would provide support.
Chch quake
Chch quake
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