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Christchurch, New Zealand, 'Vibrant City Brought to Its Knees' by Earthquake

Written By Rana G on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 10:15 AM

New Zealand 's government promised to "throw everything it can" into rescuing victims of the 6.3 earthquake that killed 65 and destroyed numerous buildings in Christchurch . Preliminary
estimates count the trapped at over 100.

Prime Minister John Key said of the rubble-strewn city, "It is just a scene of utter devastation. We may well be witnessing New Zealand 's darkest day."

Addressing the nation on television, Key said, "What was a vibrant city a few hours ago has been brought to its knees."

Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, promised aid to New Zealand, including a rescue team of 30 already en route and 34 more set to depart tomorrow.

Tuesday's quake is an aftershock from an earthquake Sept. 4. New Zealand is located within the Pacific Rim of Fire, an area so-named for its susceptibility to earthquakes. According to the USGS, thousands of earthquakes occur each year in New Zealand, though most are too small to be felt.

As devastating as the Christchurch earthquake has proved so far, its death toll is significantly less than that of the worst earthquake in New Zealand history. That earthquake occurred in 1931 and killed 256 people.

Significant Earthquakes in 2011

There have been 10 significant earthquakes throughout the world so far in 2011. These include, in addition to the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand :

* Santiago, Chile began the New Year with a Jan. 1 earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale.;
* The next day, Araucania, Chile, was stricken with a 7.1 magnitude quake.
* A 4.1 magnitude earthquake hit California Jan. 8.
* Vanuatu saw a 6.6 earthquake the following day.
* Loyalty Islands experienced a 7.0 magnitude quake Jan. 13.
* On Jan. 18, a 7.2 earthquake struck southwestern Pakistan .
* Celebes Sea's Feb. 10 tremblar measured 6.5 on the Richter scale.
* Two offshore quakes, magnitudes 6.8 and 6.6, occurred off the Chilean shores Feb. 11 and 14.
* An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale struck Arkansas Feb. 18.

Earthquakes Increasing?

The USGS says that although it may seem that the world is experiencing an increase in earthquakes, that is not the case. USGS records demonstrate that earthquakes
measuring 7.0 or greater have remained relatively constant throughout the past century, even decreasing recently. Increased ability to detect earthquakes- there are 4,000 seismograph stations worldwide- may contribute to the perception that more tremblars are occurring.

Population growth in earthquake-prone regions also creates the appearance that earthquakes are increasing in frequency and severity. Earthquake-prone cities that have not adopted quake-resistant building codes are experiencing a rise in casualties from earthquakes of the same severity as in the past due to the increased population exposure.

On average, the NEIC detects about 50 earthquakes each day.
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