New quakes rock New Zealand's Christchurch

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand, June 13, 2011 (AFP) - A series of strong quakes, including a 6.0-magnitude tremor, rocked New Zealand's stricken Christchurch Monday, causing one building to collapse and prompting evacuations.

Power company Orion said electricity had been cut to 54,000 homes. The US Geological Survey measured the latest quake at a depth of nine kilometres (5.6 miles) and some 14 kilometres from the country's second largest city.

AFP - A general view shows quake-danaged buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand on June 13, 2011.

It followed a string of shocks early Monday, including a 5.2-magnitude jolt which caused building damage in the city, still recovering from a deadly 6.3 magnitude disaster in February.

"It's been a nasty shake. People will be shaken," Christchurch mayor Bob Parker, adding that emergency services would have sprung to action within seconds of the jolts, but it was too early to detail injuries.

"I just hope that the reports of injuries I'm getting are minor injuries," he told Sky News.

Police confirmed that a structure had fallen over in central Christchurch, much of which is still blocked off after the February 22 earthquake levelled much of the city, but said nobody was trapped.

"We've checked the collapsed building and it's all clear," a police spokesman told AFP. The size of the building was not known.

The 6.0 magnitude aftershock prompted police to evacuate parts of the damaged central city known as the red zone, while rock falls had closed several bridges and prompted the closure of one police station.

Police urged residents to check on friends and neighbours, and to stay at home and avoid travelling if possible, but residents gridlocked the roads as they attempted to find their way home and reach family.

The series of quakes came just hours after the opening of an inquest examining why an office block collapsed in February's earthquake, killing more than 100 people, including 65 foreign students.

When the first tremors hit around lunchtime, lawyers and relatives of those killed when the Canterbury Television (CTV) building toppled and then burst into flames on February 22 fled the building as windows rattled.

The inquest was briefly suspended before being hit by the later quakes.

Geoscience Australia seismologist David Jepson said people would have been shaken quite strongly after New Zealand's South Island had endured much seismic activity in recent months.

"It seems like they are going to keep happening. Since they had that really big earthquake it seems to me like it activated all these different faults. But it's just a guessing game what is going to happen next," he said.

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