Aftershocks keep quake-hit Christchurch cordon in place

David Barber

Wellington (dpa) – A police cordon remained in place around several blocks in the centre of quake-hit Christchurch Friday following continuing aftershocks overnight.

Civil defence officials abandoned plans to end the cordon at 5 am, saying some buildings in the central business district, which were severely damaged in Saturday’s magnitude-7.1 quake, were still unstable and too dangerous to allow workers back in.

The city, New Zealand’s second largest with a regional population of over 500,000, remains under a state of emergency following the quake, the country’s most damaging in nearly 90 years.

Mayor Bob Parker said he hoped the cordon could be progressively reduced over the day as the safety of buildings in the centre were checked.

In three outlying district towns, Kaiapoi, Pines Beach and Kairaki, a 12-hour nighttime curfew remained in place.

Although water and power supplies have been restored in most of the region, the Waimakariri District Council said it may be at least a year before all services would be back to normal.

Meanwhile, Christchurch Hospital said it had admitted a record number of people suffering heart attacks since Saturday’s quake.

The North Island’s Hawke’s Bay region, which suffered New Zealand’s most devastating earthquake in modern times, a magnitude-7.9 event in 1931 which killed 256 people, is also shaking.

It experienced a magnitude-5.3 quake Thursday afternoon followed by a 4.3 tremor four hours later. Geologists say those quakes are not related to the swarm that continues to hit Christchurch.