A 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook New Zealand’s second biggest city on Friday, causing more than $1.4 billion in damage. In what the prime minister is calling a miracle, only two people were seriously injured and no one was killed in the Chistchurch disaster. But the Earth itself did not fare quite as well — Msnbc.com reports that an new fault line has appeared as a result of the quake.
The massive earthquake struck at about 4:35 a.m. local time on Sept. 4, rattling many of the 348,000 residents out of bed. It damaged roads, shook down chimneys, and destroyed most of the old structures near the South Island city. New Zealand traditionally experiences 15,000 quakes a year. Experts are calling this one of the worst to hit in decades, a bull’s-eye right on a major city. Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest city and the largest in the South Island of New Zealand.
The quake, caused by the ongoing tensions between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, has ripped apart the ground and pushed up the soil in some areas. Experts believe this is the new fault line. Mark Quigley is a geology professor at the University of Canterbury. As Quigley told National Radio, “One side of the earth has lurched to the right ... up to 11 feet (3.5 meters) and in some places been thrust up.” Roger Bates is a dairy farmer who owns the land where the fault line has made an appearance. He told reporters that his dairy farm was like the sea now, with “waves of soil” running through his farm.
Damages were slight considering the size of the quake. As sources report, the main quake struck about 55 kilometers west of the city and at a depth of 12 kilometers. But New Zealand’s excellent building codes were elemental in preventing deaths and extreme damage. The country went through a massive retrofit about 10 years ago, work many credit for saving lives in Friday’s quake.
As earth sciences professor Martha Savage told the Associated Press, "New Zealand has very good building codes ... (that) means the buildings are strong compared with, say, Haiti. It's about the same size (quake) as Haiti, but the damage is so much less. Though chimneys and some older facades came down, the structures are well-built.” At present, only about 500 buildings in downtown Christchurch are deemed damaged beyond repair.
Aftershocks, including a magnitude-5.7 trembler, have continued to rock the nation. Despite its size, the 7.1 quake is not the largest earthquake to hit the island nation. In 1855, a quake of 8.2 was recorded, vertically shifting 5,000 kilometers of land.
For further reading:
- New Zealand quake rips new fault line in the earth
- New Zealand earthquake reconstruction likely to cost $1.4 billion