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Update: Severe damage to Christchurch, multiple deaths confirmed

By Paul Wallis     Feb 21, 2011 in World
Christchurch - A major quake has done severe damage to the city of Christchurch. One building has been so badly damaged it’s “believed” to have been a hotel. Floors have caved in on top of each other.
The Daily Telegraph currently has a live news stream, and readers are warned it’s not for the faint hearted.
Other reports of damage include a flood of sewage and mains water released as pipes were damaged. One definite fatality is reported, and New Zealanders are being told to prepare for “multiple fatalities”. Multiple deaths are currently being confirmed.
The New Zealand government reports information as “sketchy” at this stage. The quake struck about an hour ago, and emergency services haven’t had time to survey the damage. Priority is being given to dealing with injuries and trying to find trapped people.
The “hotel” turns out to be an office block, the Pine Gould Guinness Building. It’s been totally destroyed. At least 200 people are believed to work in the building. One woman has been rescued from what used to be the roof. People are known to be still alive inside the building.
News sources are badly behind the current information. Twitter is getting more information than most new services at the moment, and a photo gallery has been created, showing extensive damage to the city, with many buildings seriously damaged.
Multiple emergency triage centers have been set up. Most people are currently at evacuation points, or surveying the damage.
Christchurch was previously hit by a large quake last year, but the new quake has done a lot more damage. It registered at 6.3 according to the USGS, but was very shallow, about 4km deep. Another building, the Provincial, is also confirmed collapsed.
Civil Defence has been declared as Level 3, the highest level. Christchurch is being evacuated. Some people are being treated on the spot, on lawns, or wherever is available.
Large numbers of people are being loaded into cars, because the city has run out of ambulances. Christchurch hospital has been evacuated.
Documents are lying all over the roads, and most people are trying to either leave or help if they can.
Liquefaction has been reported. This means the quake has liquefied the soil, damaging supports.
The Christchurch shopping centre is reported like a war zone, after facades collapsed.
Flights across New Zealand have been canceled.
Christchurch Cathedral has been severely damaged.
Australians with NZ friends and relatives in the area: Phone 1300 555 135
The 111 call line has been disabled. Ring local police instead.
Gas leaks and other hazards have been reported.
Aftershocks have been continuous.
20 people are trapped in the Forsyth Barr building in central Christchurch.
New Zealand residents are urged not to make emergency calls due to damage to phone systems.
Christchurch Hospital is now operational again.
Civil Defence advises residents to check for injuries before attempting to help others. Residents are also urged to check their homes for damage, and get out if the place appears unsafe or damaged. Residents are requested to help people like children and the elderly, and check their neighbors.
The gas company in the Christchurch area requests customers to turn off all gas appliances and the gas mains.
Fires are reported in various buildings. Helicopters are using buckets to control them.
Australian PM reports that Australian aid has been offered, and that a search and rescue team is currently on its way to New Zealand.
The New Zealand Defence Force has been mobilized to assist in rescue operations.
Many trapped people are using their cell phones. Some are reported to be trapped under collapsed desks in the Press building. The roof collapsed, and the masonry crushed the desks. The trapped people can't see each other, but can hear others who've been injured.
Access to buildings is being made more difficult by aftershocks, putting rescuers at risk.
Local residents are bringing their cars into the city to act as ambulances.
Bodies have been retrieved from the YHA hostel building, which was severely damaged.
One man has been arrested for attempted rescue efforts possibly putting lives at risk. Standard procedure is that assistance should be done at the direction of emergency services personnel.
Air ambulances have now evacuated some of the injured. Other South Island cities are sending ambulances to Christchurch.
Electrical services have been restored to at least some degree.
NZ government advises phone users to use text messaging, rather than phone calls.
Two suburbs, Brighton and Lyttleton, are reported "unlivable". Lyttleton was at the epicentre of the quake.
24 people are being rescued by crane from 17th floor of the Forsyth Barr building, after the stairwell collapsed.
The NZ blood service has made a request for urgent donations.
Those with mental health issues are advised to seek assistance immediately.
Updated picture gallery. Older buildings have lost their faces, and a lot of brickwork has disintegrated.
Telecom NZ is enabling pay phones to operate as free calls for Christchurch residents.
The phones are now free.
The Press Building has pancaked, with people trapped inside. Emergency services are currently on the roof trying to gain access.
The CTV building has been destroyed, and is on fire. One fatality is reported. Large numbers of ambulances are at the building.
Ironic, but good news: There was a large medical conference being held in Christchurch, and the doctors have volunteered to help with the emergency triage.
At least 30 people are reported trapped in the Pine Gould Guinness building.
Large numbers of bricks seem to have separated as a result of the quake, probably as a result of transfer shock from the shallow quake.
65 confirmed dead according to New Zealand Prime Minister John Kay, with an estimated 200 people still trapped in their buildings.
Google have set up a person finder for the emergency. You can either look for a person, or provide information about that person. Google states that all information will be publicly visible.
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