65 Confirmed Dead in NZ Quake
PM: 'We may be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2011 12:17 AM CST
Updated Feb 22, 2011 7:42 AM CST
A building in Christchurch, New Zealand, is destroyed after an earthquake struck Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011.    (AP Photo/NZPA, Pam Johnson)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – The devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch today killed at least 65 people and the death toll is expected to rise, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key warns. The 6.3-magnitude quake struck just before 1pm local time, causing widespread destruction. Many people are still trapped in buildings and a state of emergency has been declared, the BBC reports. The city center, where several large buildings have collapsed, has been cordoned off and the roads are jammed with people leaving the city as instructed.

The quake, the biggest disaster to hit New Zealand in decades, struck just 6.2 miles south of the city at a relatively shallow depth of 3.1 miles. (There were no fatalities in September's 7.1-magnitude quake.) "It's an absolute tragedy for this city, for New Zealand, for the people that we care so much about," Key said. "We may be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day." Troops have been deployed to help emergency workers. "There are people fighting for their lives at the moment but there are also people fighting for them," said Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, who was among many people injured when the quake shook the city council building. Click for more on the quake, which resulted in 30 million tons of ice falling from a nearby glacier.