Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Zealand Earthquake 2022: Magnitude 6.3

New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses (the North Island and the South Island) and numerous smaller islands, most notably Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands. The indigenous Māori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau; the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing but in free association); and the Ross Dependency, New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica.

New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation: it is situated about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and its closest neighbours to the north are the Pacific Islands of New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga. The country's sharp mountain peaks owe much to the earthquakes and volcanic activity caused by the clashing Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates. The climate is mild and temperate and most of the landscape is covered by tussock grass or forests of podocarp, kauri or southern beech. During its long isolation New Zealand developed a distinctive fauna dominated by birds, a number of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and introduced mammals.

A strong earthquake shook New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon, according to reports.

The 6.3-magnitude quake, per the USGS, shook New Zealand's South Island and its largest city of Christchurch at 12:50 p.m. local time.

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The New Zealand Herald reported that the quake's epicenter was Lyttelton with a depth of 5 kilometers, though it was felt as far away as Wellington and Dunedin per Twitter reports. It shook the Canterbury region, which has a population of approximately 500,000. Radio New Zealand reports "that some people have been killed."

Radio New Zealand also noted some of the damage from the quake in Christchurch: a church collapsed, a bridge is impassible, the airport has been shut down and the mayor is urging people not to drive due to road damage.

HuffPost reader Laura Campbell submitted these photos of the damage in Christchurch. A local New Zealand media outlet posted this photo of damage to Chirstchurch's historic Christchurch Cathedral.

Videos of the quake are beginning to surface on YouTube. One video (watch below) shows shaking, presumably an aftershock, and fallen rocks among the damage outside Christchurch.

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