Curfew and cordon thrown around rescue zone in centre of New Zealand city, where 75 are confirmed dead and 300 missing
Police have a declared a curfew in central Christchurch as aftershocks from Tuesday's earthquake struck the city.
The death toll from the 6.3-magnitude quake has reached 75 and is expected to rise. Three hundred people are missing, with Ireland's department of foreign affairs confirming that two Irish passport holders were killed.
Reports of Britons among the dead have not been confirmed. The British high commission, which is providing consular assistance in Christchurch, said it had received no information as yet of any British casualties.
Officials have urged Christchurch people to stay at home unless travel is essential. Locals venturing into the city to view the damage would hamper rescue efforts, said Police Superintendent Dave Cliff. He warned of the danger of "criminal elements" and announced a strict exclusion zone around the city's "four avenues" from 6.30pm. Six arrests for burglary have been made.
In the afternoon, emergency workers were hurriedly evacuated from two blocks around the Hotel Grand Chancellor amid fears that the 27-storey building, which has slumped at one of its corners, could collapse.
Up to 100 people are feared dead in the Canterbury TV building. Despite reports that authorities thought the building "not survivable", Ross Dittmer of the fire service said that rescuers pulling out from the site was due to the proximity to the Chancellor hotel rather than any abandonment of hope. Just after 8pm on Wednesday evening television images suggested the rescue effort at the CTV building was being relaunched.
Near the rubble were Kenti Manning, 15, and his sister Lizzy, 18, waiting for news of their missing mother Donna, a television presenter.
"My mum is superwoman, she'd do anything," Lizzy told stuff.co.nz as her father Jonathan Manning comforted her.
However, after Lizzy spoke, a police official bent down beside the pair, the website reported, and said he had "some horrible news" before telling them their mother could not have survived.
Manning said his wife was "larger than life, so vibrant".
He told the Press: "She loved her kids, adored her kids. She was a devoted mother and a devoted member of her family."
Ireland's foreign affairs department named the country's victims as Owen McKenna, who was originally from Co Monaghan and had living in New Zealand for some time. It said a second Irish citizen who died was from the UK, but was married to an Irish woman. The department said there were now "serious concerns" over the fate of at least two other Irish citizens who are unaccounted for in the Christchurch area.
There was a rare ray of hope on a gloomy day when rescuers pulled Ann Bodkin from the remains of the Pyne Gould Guinness building. She had spent a day trapped under her desk. The sun broke out as she emerged. According to the Christchurch mayor, Bob Parker, an emergency worker near the site had said: "They got Ann out of the building and God turned on the lights."
Other rescues proved more harrowing, with construction manag
Haering told the New Zealand Herald the man had a leg pinned under concrete. A doctor gave him strong painkillers while a fireman asked Haering for a hacksaw to remove the man's leg.
The New Zealand prime minister, John Key, has declared a national state of emergency, apparently the first in the country's history. It would enable "the strongest possible focus of local, national and international resources working together to achieve the best possible response in the shortest timeframe". He added: "There is no reason that can make sense of this event, no words that can spare our pain."
Power remains off for about half the city and water is yet to be restored for large areas, prompting concerns for public health. Concern is high for the hard-hit suburbs of Sumner and Lyttleton, which remain difficult to access. Late on Wednesday, police confirmed parts of Sumner were being evacuated.
Roads and pavement are strewn with bricks, cracks, gaping holes and sludge. Traffic lights have almost all failed and army vehicles are parked across intersections.
The airport has reopened for both domestic and international flights. Many foreign nationals have been leaving the temporary camps in which they were accommodated - including tents in Hagley Park, which had been erected to house the annual Ellerslie flower show.
Structural damage and a lack of electricity and water mean few shops or petrol stations in the city can open. Some petrol stations have reported angry clashes among drivers vying to fill up. A handful of corner shops have kept their doors open despite the restrictions, serving customers in the near-dark.