Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Disaster Update: Earthquake in New Zealand

From the New Zealand Red Cross National Office

At 12.51 pm (NZDT) today, February 22, 2011, the South Island of New Zealand was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake hit at a depth of 5km (shallow) and is reported to be an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake, which struck the same area on September 4, 2010. The epicenter of the earthquake was about 10km southeast of the city of Christchurch (population 340,000). The earthquake has been followed by several aftershocks ranging between 4.5 to 5.7 magnitudes. The death toll has reached 65 and is expected to rise. There is widespread damage throughout Christchurch, including collapsed buildings in the center of the city and damage to roads and bridges. Electricity supplies have been cut to about half of the city and Christchurch airport is closed.

The New Zealand Red Cross has activated its national emergency operations center at their national office in Wellington. Response teams from the Christchurch and Timaru branches are on the ground working in Christchurch now, with teams from Nelson and Blenheim on their way. Dunedin, Queenstown, Invercargill and West Coast teams are all due to arrive tomorrow morning to assist. The Red Cross teams are working with Civil Defense, New Zealand Police, the local councils and agencies to assess the needs and determine how the Red Cross can best assist. One evacuation center has been opened for approximately 2,000 people.

The New Zealand Red Cross has provided first aid assistance and has distributed blankets to the displaced families. It has started national restoring family linking activities, and a telecommunications team is being deployed to Christchurch and will be operational tomorrow morning. The Australian Red Cross will provide some bilateral assistance based on the existing agreements with the New Zealand Red Cross.

As of now, the New Zealand Red Cross has not asked for international assistance, and the American Red Cross has not made plans to fundraise or communicate specifically for this disaster. By tomorrow morning the New Zealand Red Cross will provide more information on whether international assistance will be needed. We'll update you as our role and status changes.

New Zealand Red Cross has opened a telephone hotline for people looking for their relatives missing due to the earthquake. 

You may refer clients in your community to this hotline. Please note that international telephone charges apply. The New Zealand Red Cross hotline to inquire about persons missing due to the earthquake is: 011-647-850-2199.  

Inquiries concerning U.S. citizens living or traveling in New Zealand should be referred to the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services, at 1-888-407-4747. Please remember that this phone number is frequently busy during the first days of a large disaster. 

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