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Earthquake rattles New Zealand city of Christchurch

A 5.0 earthquake shook the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday morning.

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In this file photo, a man walks in a large earthquake crack in the ground in Kaiapoi near Christchurch, New Zealand, on Sept. 9. The city was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Sept. 4. and has felt hundreds of aftershocks since then. A strong 5.0 quake hit the city Tuesday morning.

Rob Griffith/AP/File

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An earthquake rattled the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Tuesday, cutting power and phone service and sending some residents running into the streets just weeks after a more powerful quake caused extensive damage.

New Zealand's geological agency GNS Science said Tuesday's magnitude 5.0 quake was centered six miles (10 kilometers) southwest of the city and just five miles (nine kilometers) below the surface.

Buildings shook and objects tumbled from shelves when the quake hit about 11:30 a.m. (22:30 GMT Monday), emergency services said.

Electricity and phone service were cut to several parts of the city, and a number of buildings in the city center were evacuated following the shake, civil defense officials said.

The temblor was one of hundreds of aftershocks that have hit the city since a magnitude-7 quake on Sept. 4 that wrecked thousands of homes, tore up farmland but did not kill anyone.

St John Ambulance spokesman Chris Haines said there were no reports of any quake-related injuries, but the service received several panic calls following the aftershock.

Riccarton Browsers Garden Cafe owner Flick Holmes said the shallow earthquake was "very scary" and seemed to last about 20 seconds.

"It definitely was a very big one. Everything rocked. Just when you think you're getting used to it, (another) goes," she said.

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Police said a suburban shopping mall was evacuated as a precaution after reports of some roofing collapsing.

"This was very loud, very strong shaking. All our china is smashed in our kiosk," said Fiona Fidow at the Cupcake Collection shop in Westfield Mall in suburban Riccarton.

"The mall has been evacuated. Quite a few people are crying and hysterical. There are a lot of frightened people," she told the "Stuff" news web site.

Christchurch resident Shirin Namjou said she was driving on a suburban street when the aftershock hit.

"My car was being shaken around and the traffic lights were moving side to side. It was one of the strongest ones we have felt," she said.

About 300 workers were evacuated from a construction site at Christchurch International Airport, while the airport itself was closed briefly so engineers could check its runways for cracks.

One Christchurch resident reported some fresh cracks had appeared in his house, while others reported crockery being broken and books tumbling from shelves.

GNS Science said four other, smaller aftershocks also hit the region Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister John Key told reporters on Monday that 50,000 homes in the city needed major repairs, with some 1,200 houses likely to be demolished and rebuilt.

These homes were located where quake damage to the land meant major remedial work was needed. Repairing land torn open by the magnitude-7 quake would take two years to complete, he said.

A "very small number," of perhaps 20 homes were not be able to be rebuilt on their original sites, Key added.

Officials earlier estimated the full bill for Christchurch's quake damage could reach 4 billion New Zealand dollars ($2.9 billion).


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