A powerful earthquake in New Zealand has killed at least two people and destroyed infrastructure and property. The premier indicated that the damage was likely to amount to billions of dollars.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Monday indicated that damage caused by a 7.8 magnitude that struck the South Pacific nation on Sunday could cost the country around 2 billion New Zealand dollars ($1.43 billion, 1.33 billion euros), local news reported.
“It’s hard to believe that the bill is going to be less than a couple of billion,” Key told Radio New Zealand.
The US Geological Survey placed the epicenter in the South Island’s North Canterbury region, saying it occurred at a depth of 23 kilometers (14.3 miles).
In the hours after seismic event, a 6.3 magnitude aftershock caused severe shaking in Christchurch, where a similar sized earthquake killed 185 people in 2011.
Sunday’s quake killed at least two. Authorities said infrastructure and property have been significantly damaged in some areas.
“I think had there been serious injury or suspected further loss of life then we would have heard about it by now,” said Civil Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee.
“It looks as though it’s the infrastructure that’s the biggest problem, although I don’t want to take away from the suffering … and terrible fright so many people have had,” he told Radio New Zealand.
Prime Minister Key and Brown flew over affected areas in a military helicopter to assess the damage. Outside of Kaikoura, a popular tourist destination in the worst-hit region, aerial footage showed train tracks ripped up and tossed some 10 meters (32.8) away.
Key said it may take days to assemble a full picture of the damage. “As we have daylight we can use the military assets that we have to make sure we get a stock-take of the overall damage, but I suspect that will take quite some time to fully understand,” the premier said.
The government is expected to appoint a senior official to oversee reconstruction in the aftermath of the quake.
Tags: Christchurch, Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, Civil Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee, damage to infrastructure, earthquake, infrastructure, Kaikour, Kaikoura, New Zealand, New Zealand earthquake, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, U.S. Geological Survey