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article imageAftershocks continue to rattle quake-ravaged Christchurch Special

By Sharon Davis     Sep 6, 2010 in World
Christchurch - More than 20 aftershocks a day have rattled through New Zealand's second largest city, Christchurch, following the 7.1 earthquake which shook the city awake at 4.35 am on Saturday.
Teams of building inspectors have been working around the clock to assess the damage to businesses and advise whether they were fit to occupy depending on the extent of structural damage, and many businesses were not able to open for business on Monday.
The city has declared a state of emergency which was expected to be lifted by noon on Monday, but is now likely to last until at least Wednesday as aftershocks bring down buildings already weakened by the initial quake.
Most large shopping malls and many businesses in the CBD have been unable to open. Some businesses had to evacuate after opening because of the aftershocks. Those that have been able to open have put in long hours to clean up the damage, either putting stock back on shelves or clearing up damaged goods, and the losses are mounting.
Several businesses were ordered to evaucated after noon today. The NZ Hearld reports:
This afternoon's 4.5 magnitude aftershock has pushed a number of damaged Christchurch buildings over the edge.
The 12 story Radio Network-Newstalk ZB building in Worcester Street is one that officials have ordered be evacuated after the tremor at 12.35pm.
Two people also escaped unharmed after running from an unstable brick building which showed signs of collapsing during the same strong aftershock this afternoon.
This was followed by even more powerful aftershocks in the afternoon, the largest being 5.4 according to GeoNet.
Despite this, Christchurch residents have gone out of their way to support each other and remain in relatively good cheer, with a new hashtag #eqnzpoker emerging on Twitter, with people trying to guess the magnitude of each successive aftershock.
Demolition of unstable building has started in the city, but parts of the CBD are expected to remain closed for weeks.
Although power was restored to about 70 percent of the city within 12 hours of the earthquake, a lot of refrigerated stock in stores has had to be dumped due to the loss of power. Power has now been restored to about 90 to 95 percent of areas, but water supply remains the biggest problem.
Water and sewage pipes have been damaged and tap water which is running to about 75 percent of homes is not considered safe to drink without boiling first. Christchurch residents have been asked to conserve water and water tankers are delivering water to areas without running supplies.
There have been two confirmed cases of gastroenteritis so far.
The New Zealand government announced today that it will be giving NZ$ 5million to the Christchurch mayoral relief fund.
The NZ Herald quoted prime minster John Key as saying that the government estimated a NZ$94m cost for infrastructure repair and replacement in the area. The Christchurch council's initial estimates were that costs would be in the region of NZ$ 2 billion.
But perhaps most alarming is the fact that Euan Smith, a Professor of Geophysics at Victoria University’s Institute of Geophysics, is predicting that this could be the first in a series of large quakes to rock the region.
According to NBR :
"In 1929 there occurred, in west Canterbury, a magnitude 7 earthquake which turned out to be the first of a series of seven major, magnitude greater than 7, earthquakes over the next 13 years," Professor Smith said.
"The series included the second and third largest earthquakes in European times - the M 7.8 Buller and Hawke's Bay earthquakes. The series ended with two M 7.2 and 7.0 earthquakes in the Wairarapa in 1942.
"It is improbable that this occurrence of such large earthquakes in rapid succession was coincidental. It is more likely that the faults which broke during the series were all stressed and ready to break, and that the occurrence of successive earthquakes helped bring forward the occurrence of the next.
"There is no reason to think that such a series could not happen again. Equally there is no way of knowing whether or not Saturday's earthquake has provided a trigger for more large earthquakes in the next few years."
Professor Smith is also calling for all non-reinforced concrete buildings to be demolished within 10 years to prevent fatalities should another earthquake hit the region. He points out that if the quake had happened later in the day there would have produced a very much higher casualty rate that would have included deaths.
Reports are trickling in of a number of lucky escapes for the residents of Christchurch and the Earthquake Commission has received 15,000 claims for damages so far. Click here for a map of the aftershocks.
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