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After a severe earthquake, Christchurch—New Zealand's second largest city—lies in ruin. Rescue workers are trying to find more than 300 people reported missing. (Tim Clayton / Corbis)

Earthquake Rocks New Zealand

A powerful quake strikes one of the country's biggest cities

By Tyrus Cukavac | February 23 , 2011
<br />Murray and Kelly James stare at what's left of their house. They are among many left homeless after the quake. (Mark Baker / AP Images)

Murray and Kelly James stare at what's left of their house. They are among many left homeless after the quake. (Mark Baker / AP Images)

On Monday, New Zealand was struck by the worst natural disaster to hit the country in 80 years. At least 98 people have died and 226 are missing, following a major earthquake.

Earthquakes happen frequently in New Zealand, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean near Australia. Nearly 14,000 earthquakes occur there each year. Most are not even noticed, or they cause minimal damage. But this time the epicenter, or starting point of an earthquake, was near Christchurch—New Zealand’s second-largest city.

The quake was a 6.3 on the Richter scale, a system for measuring earthquakes that ranks earthquakes from 0 to 10. A 6.3 magnitude quake is dangerous in areas with large populations. Christchurch is home to roughly 375,000 people.

Many buildings crumbled. The quake even toppled the steeple of the Christchurch Cathedral, one of the city’s most important landmarks. Rescue workers are looking for people still trapped inside damaged buildings.

The city has also lost electricity, and water pipes have broken, flooding streets.

"We may be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day,” said Prime Minister John Key. Officials expect aftershocks, or smaller earthquakes that follow a major earthquake, to occur over the next few days.

HOPE IN THE RUBBLE

Christchurch is not alone as it struggles to recover. The New Zealand Red Cross Web site recently crashed because so many people were trying to donate money all at once.

Top search-and-rescue teams are arriving from around the world. The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom are sending doctors, engineers, and search dogs. Google created a person-finder app to help in the search for missing people.

Christchurch police and the New Zealand military are also helping to keep things under control. Nearly 120 people have been rescued since the earthquake struck.

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