CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — A sharp series of about 20 aftershocks rattled New Zealand’s earthquake-hit city of Christchurch overnight, and earthquake experts warned Tuesday that another powerful temblor might hammer the region in coming days.
The weekend’s powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake smashed buildings and homes, wrecked roads and disrupted the central city, though nobody was killed and only two people were seriously injured – which authorities attributed to good building codes and the quake’s early-morning timing.
“It was as strong as the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year, which caused widespread devastation and is estimated to have killed approximately 230,000 people,” Prime Minister John Key said Tuesday.
“Although no one lost their life … families have been traumatized and lost their valued possessions.”
The city center remained cordoned off by troops Tuesday, with only building owners and workers allowed in to begin clearing up the mess – with much of the center taking on the mantle of a ghost town.
More than 100 aftershocks, ranging from magnitude 3.2 to 5.4, have rocked the region since Saturday’s major quake.
Overnight, about 20 shocks including two of magnitude 5.4 rattled the city, and quake experts said aftershocks likely will continue for several weeks – and the worst of them may be yet to come.
“It is still possible that we’ll have a magnitude-6 in the next week, and people ought to be aware of that, particularly if they are around structures which are already damaged,” said Ken Gledhill, a monitor at the geological agency GNS Science. “For a shallow earthquake like this, they will go on for weeks.”