MELBOURNE, Feb 22 � At least 65 people were killed as a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand�s southern city of Christchurch early today, crushing buildings and leaving hundreds of people trapped and screaming for help, reports PTI.
�The death toll I have at the moment is 65 and that may rise. So it is an absolute tragedy for this city, for New Zealand and for the people that we care so much about,� New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said.
�It�s a terrifying time for the people of Canterbury. We may be witnessing New Zealand�s darkest day,� he said and described Christchurch - the nation�s second-largest city - as �a scene of utter devastation.�
Dozens were trapped under flattened buildings in the country�s most devastating tremor in 80 years.
The widespread damage came from a lunch-time tremor in the city of about 4 lakh residents which is still recovering from a powerful quake in September last year. However, that quake did not cause any fatalities but did weaken many buildings.
Live video footage showed parts of buildings collapsed into the streets, which were strewn with bricks and shattered concrete.
Footpaths and roads were cracked and split, and hundreds of dazed, screaming and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared throughout the city.
The TV footage showed onlookers clinging to each other and others bleeding and limping, many searching for loved ones and trying to reach trapped people.