New Zealand is reeling from a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that rocked the country’s second-largest city on Tuesday, leaving at least 65 dead. “We may well be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day,” said Prime Minister John Key, speaking from the city of Christchurch, near the epicentre of the quake. It was the second time in roughly six months that the city was rattled by tremors, after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the area in early September, leaving two seriously injured but no fatalities.
The Tuesday quake, though, proved far more devastating, hitting at lunchtime when streets and offices were at their busiest. It wrecked the facade of Christchurch’s iconic cathedral, and reduced several buildings to rubble, leaving over 100 residents trapped, according to the city’s mayor, Bob Parker. Some 120 miles east of the city, the tremors also shook off 30 million tons of ice from one of New Zealand’s largest glaciers. The earthquake sent ripples through the financial markets as well, with the New Zealand dollar, known as the kiwi, plunging to its lowest level in almost two months. And economists warned that the damage and disruption caused by the quake are likely to slow down the country’s economy.