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New Zealand quake 'opened up new fault line'

New Zealand’s powerful earthquake that smashed buildings, cracked roads and twisted railway lines around Christchurch ripped a new 3.4m wide fault line in the earth’s surface, a geologist has said.

Canterbury University geology professor Mark Quigley said what “looks to us that it could be a new fault” had ripped across the earth and pushed some surface areas up.

At least 500 buildings, including 90 properties, were designated as destroyed in the 7.1-magnitude quake that struck on Friday near the South Island city of 400,000 people. Most other buildings sustained only minor damage.

“The long linear fracture on the earth’s surface does things like break apart houses, break apart roads.”

Mark Quigley, Canterbury University

The quake cut power across the region, roads were blocked by debris and gas and water supplies were disrupted, but Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said services were being restored today.

Power was back to 90% of the city and water supply had resumed for all but 15% to 20% of residents, he said. Portable toilets had been provided and tanks of fresh water placed around the city.

Mr Parker said it would take a long time to fully fix some core services such as water and sewerage. “Our first priority is just people,” he said. “That’s our worry.”

Specialist engineering teams have begun assessing damage to all central city buildings, said the city’s search and rescue service.

The quake was caused by the continuing collision between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, said Quigley, who is leading a team trying to pin down the temblor’s source.

“One side of the earth has lurched to the right … up to 3.4m and in some places been thrust up,” he told National Radio.

“The long linear fracture on the earth’s surface does things like break apart houses, break apart roads. We went and saw two houses that were completely snapped in half by the earthquake.”

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