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Earthquake tragedy in New Zealand

A deadly earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand today killing at least 65 people. Officials said that there may still be hundreds of victims trapped in collapsed buildings, with fears that the death toll may even rise to 300. The earthquake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, struck at 12.51pm local time. The impact cracked roads, broke water mains and tore up buildings as if they were made of cardboard. Shocked survivors and the walking wounded could be seen carrying victims on makeshift stretchers made from bits of debris. The emergency services worked through the night to try and dig out a possible 200 people who are thought to be trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings. A backpacker who was witness to the terrible events, said: “The city looked like a bomb had hit it. There was dust and smoke in the air and bits of glass and rubble falling from buildings everywhere. Most of the roads were totally destroyed, half of the cathedral had fallen off and there were ambulances and helicopters everywhere. It was just madness.” Most of the city has been cut off from basic services, as power lines and water supplies were knocked out and the mayor of Christchurch has ordered an evacuation of the city. The country’s Prime Minister, John Key, said: “It is a scene of utter devastation. This could be New Zealand’s darkest day.” The epicentre was reported to be near Lyttleton, three miles away from the city. Around two hours later, Christchurch suffered a 5.6 aftershock. This is the second major quake to hit Christchurch in as little as 6 months. It is the latest in an ‘aftershock sequence’ to the 7.1-magnitude event from September 2010, Even though larger, there was no loss of life in the earlier incident, even though hundreds of buildings were damaged. It is feared that the final death toll will eventually surpass the 265 killed in a 1931 earthquake, which was the worst natural disaster in the country’s history.

GLOSSARY

Earthquake
a sudden, violent shaking of the ground, sometimes causing great destruction
Victim
(here) a person injured by an accident
Collapsed
a structure that has fallen down
Death toll
the number of deaths resulting from an incident
Richter scale
the scientific scale used for measuring the size of earthquakes
water mains
large, undeground water pipes that carry high pressure water supplies for towns and cities
walking wounded
people injured in a major accident but are still able to walk away
makeshift stretchers
a substitute device used for carrying injured people
debris
parts of something that has been destroyed
rubble
debris of concrete, stone or brick from a destroyed building
backpacker
someone who travels around with only a bag on their back for supplies
witness
a person who sees a crime or an accident
dust
fine, dry powder. Here it describes the clouds of particles coming from the debris of destroyed buildings
evacuation
the action of leaving a place because of possible danger
utter
a synonym of ‘complete’ or ‘total’
devastation
a synonym of ‘destruction’
epicentre
the centre or point of origin of an earthquake
aftershock
a smaller earthquake following the main shock of a large earthquake
loss of life
deaths from an accident
surpass
be greater than, exceed
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