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New Zealand extends emergency in quake-hit Christchurch

by Staff Writers
Wellington (AFP) Sept 15, 2010
New Zealand authorities on Wednesday extended a state of emergency in earthquake-damaged Christchurch by 24 hours.

The state of emergency in three areas of the city and surrounding regions following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake on September 4 had been due to end at midday Wednesday (0000GMT).

"Civil defence officials and the three mayors (in the affected areas) believe it is important to err on the side of caution by extending the states of emergency across the three districts until 12 noon tomorrow," Civil Defence Minister John Carter said in a statement.

The delay on lifting the emergency comes after the government pushed through laws late Tuesday to cut red tape during the reconstruction of Christchurch, which suffered damage worth 2.7 billion US dollars in the quake.

While strong earthquakes of up to magnitude 4.3 continued to rattle New Zealand's second largest city on Wednesday, life was slowly returning to normal.

Civil defence said most schools were open, public transport was operating and alternative accommodation had been found for hundreds of people who had been sheltering in welfare centres after being left homeless by the quake.

No one died in the country's most destructive earthquake for almost 80 years, although many recounted close shaves, and there have been no disease outbreaks or major public health scares in its aftermath.

No-go zones imposed by police and the military in central Christchurch have also been lifted, allowing businesses to open.

Carter said that lifting the state of emergency meant civil defence and local government officials would hand over disaster response management to the national government as the city of 340,000 people moved into "recovery phase".

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Christchurch New Zealand's most costly disaster: PM
Christchurch, New Zealand (AFP) Sept 13, 2010
The earthquake that devastated Christchurch was the most expensive natural disaster ever to hit New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key said Monday, As life slowly returned to normal in New Zealand's second largest city, Key said rebuilding after the 7.0-magnitude tremor on September 4 would be a long process. "It will take many months and cost a lot of money," he told reporters. "Not all o ... read more

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