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New Zealand is declaring an overnight curfew after a large earthquake hit the country's second-biggest city, Christchurch. The tremor brought down power lines and bridges, while wrecking roads and building facades. Officials say it was "extremely lucky" that no deaths, and only two injuries, have been reported.
The extent of the New Zealand earthquake's impact became clear at dawn on Saturday.
Roads were blocked by rubble power and traffic lights were out and gas and water supplies were disrupted, while chimneys and walls had fallen from older structures.
The mayor of Christchurch warns that continuing aftershocks could cause bricks to drop from damaged buildings.
Prime Minister John Key joined his Energy Minister and top city officials on a tour to inspect damage, and review the situation.
Prime Minister John Key said, "People have been genuinely very, very scared and the damage is actually incredibly frightening. The only thing you can say is that its a miracle that none lost their life because if this had occurred you know a number of hours earlier when there were a lot more people out and about particularly in the central city area we would have lost quite a number of Christchurch residents, in that sense it good news."
A state of emergency has been declared, and army troops are on standby to offer their assistance.
A civil defense agency spokesman says at least six bridges in the region were badly damaged, while the historic Empire Hotel in the port town of Lyttelton is "very unstable," and in danger of collapse.
Several wharves at the harbor have also been damaged.
Treasury officials estimate the damage at two billion New Zealand Dollars, and relief plans have already been drawn up.
Prime Minister John Key said, "This is a big clean-up job treasure have had a bit of a look at it and they've been developing models over the last few years and the estimates are in the order of about two billion dollars (NZD), the cost of this earthquake in the Christchurch and Canterbury area."
The tremor struck at 4:35 in the morning, jolting thousands of residents from their slumber. A dozen aftershocks have rocked the region since that time, ranging from 3.9 to 5.3 in magnitude.
The country experiences more than 14-thousand earthquakes annually, but only 150 or so are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 cause damage in any given year.