A 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the New Zealand city of Christchurch just before 1pm local time Tuesday, collapsing buildings, burying vehicles under debris, and sending rescuers scrambling to help trapped people amid reports of multiple deaths. Police said they were trying to confirm the early reports of multiple fatalities, including a report that two buses had been crushed by falling buildings. The police statement said there were other reports of fires burning in the city and people being trapped in buildings.
Live video footage showed parts of buildings collapsed into the streets, which were strewn with bricks and shattered concrete. Sidewalks and roads were cracked and split, and hundreds of dazed, screaming, and crying residents wandered through the streets as sirens blared throughout the city. Witnesses said the Christchurch Cathedral, an iconic stone building which stands at the center of the city, was destroyed, its spire toppled into the surrounding square. The airport was closed and Christchurch Hospital was evacuated. Power and telephone lines were knocked out, and pipes burst, flooding the streets with water. (Read more New Zealand stories.)