Strong Quake Strikes Near Christchurch, New Zealand

An earthquake that struck New Zealand on Saturday caused "a lot of damage," though there are no reports of serious injuries or major damage, an emergency official said. "It was like a freight train running through the house," said Chris Monroe, operations manager for the New Zealand Fire Service. The quake had a magnitude of 7.0, down from an initial assessment of 7.4, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It struck about four miles from Christchurch, a city of about 380,000 people. An aftershock with a magnitude of 5.7 struck not far from the epicenter about 20 minutes later, the survey said. Power was out to much of Christchurch "because of extensive damage there," Radio New Zealand reported.One person said the quake "turned his house upside down, with crockery breaking," the station reported, citing Orion, a power company. Sewer lines and water pipes have ruptured, a company spokesman told the station. "Structural damage to houses and broken glass have been reported throughout Christchurch," the station said. A man who was at the international airport in Christchurch described the scene. "The entire terminal started shaking," he said. "I knew it was an earthquake.There was not much you could do at that point." Authorities evacuated the airport, he said, adding that he saw minor damage. "We've just had a terrible earthquake," said Paula May, a Christchurch resident. "We have no power. Lots of stuff in the house is all over the floor. All the power is down, so I can't see anything. There's no power in the town." A person who answered the phone at the George hotel in Christchurch said that "we are cleaning up at the present moment" but wouldn't disclose any more detail. Reinier Eulink, general manager of the Holiday Inn in Christchurch, said there's damage around the hotel corridors and "big cracks in the walls." "It was a big big long jolt, and the building moved a lot," he said. The 13-floor building, with about 150 rooms, was about 40 percent occupied, and he estimate