At least 65 people died in the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch Tuesday, Prime Minister John Key said, adding "we may be witnessing New Zealand's darkest day".
UAE students safe
The UAE Ambassador to Australia, Ali Nasser Al Nuaimi, assured about the safety of UAE students in Christchurch city, New Zealand.
Al Nuaimi said that the UAE embassy has set up an operations room in coordination with the Cultural Attache to follow-up repercussions of the earthquake.
The embassy has also sent e-mails to all students in New Zealand with the allocation of a hot line to respond to any emergency after the earthquake, he added.
Rescuers dug frantically for bodies and people trapped after a major 6.3 earthquake caused "multiple" deaths in New Zealand's second city of Christchurch Tuesday, crushing buildings and vehicles.
The mayor of Christchurch said that as many as 200 people could still be trapped inside buildings wrecked by a strong earthquake.
Radio New Zealand quoted the mayor, Bob Parker, as saying the number trapped could be between 150 and 200.
Thousands of panicked and tearful residents thronged the city's streets after the quake struck at lunchtime, just six months after a 7.0-magnitude tremor shattered buildings but did not claim any lives.
A view shows a damaged cathedral after an earthquake in central Christchurch February 22, 2011. A strong quake hit New Zealand's second-biggest city of Christchurch on Tuesday for the second time in five months, toppling buildings, causing "multiple fatalities," trapping people beneath rubble and sparking fires. (REUTERS)
Police warned the latest earthquake had left people dead. One office building housing 200 workers had collapsed, while Christchurch Cathedral's spire tumbled.
Local station TV3 said dead bodies had been pulled from a hostel, and a tourist had been crushed to death in a van.
All flights across the country were briefly suspended after Christchurch control tower was damaged.
Declaring a state of emergency, Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said: "Everybody needs to understand that this is going to be a very black day for this severely shaken city.
This image shows a building which was heavily damaged by a 6.3 earthquake which hit the city of Christchurch on February 22, 2011. Multiple deaths were reported as the 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, toppling buildings, igniting fires and sending panicked people rushing into the streets. (AFP)
"I've had reports of buses that are trapped under fallen buildings, car park buildings that have taken significant damage, collapsed or partially collapsed. In some of the inner-city streets we have people trapped in buildings."
As several strong aftershocks pummelled the stricken city of 340,000, which has endured continuous tremors since September's disaster, bleeding and limping survivors emerged from damaged buildings.
Christchurch airport was closed and The Press building, a centre for newspapers, was badly damaged. Reports said trapped survivors were desperately phoning their families from the wreckage.
In this image made from video run by New Zealand's TV3, people looks at damaged buildings following a strong quake in Christchurch, New Zealand Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011. The 6.3-magnitude earthquake rocked the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch on Tuesday, seriously injuring people and damaging buildings throughout the city. (AP)
"The details that we have are extremely sketchy. But the worry and fear of course is that this earthquake has taken place at a time when (residents) were going about their business," said Prime Minister John Key.
"It is a very populated time with people at work, children at school," he warned. "Sadly I cannot rule out whether there have been fatalities."
The quake struck at 12:51 pm (2351 GMT Monday), five kilometres (three miles) from Christchurch at a depth of just four kilometres.
Emergency services said it was more damaging than September's quake, which struck before dawn with most people safely at home.
"The shake has been a lot worse, maybe not in intensity but as far as damage is concerned, and there are numerous people trapped," a fire service spokesman told Radio New Zealand.
A car crushed by rubble from collapsed buildings is pictured after an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, in this February 22, 2011 image taken from video footage. A strong quake hit New Zealand's second-biggest city of Christchurch on Tuesday for the second time in five months, toppling buildings, causing "multiple fatalities", trapping people beneath rubble and sparking fires. (REUTERS)
Cars were buried under rubble and roads buckled as the tremor opened ruptures in the ground. Police feared multiple deaths, including in two buses that were crushed by falling debris.
"Multiple fatalities have been reported at several locations in the central city, including two buses crushed by falling buildings. A doctor and emergency services are attending," a police statement said.
"Other reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central (city) and persons reported trapped in buildings."
People are evacuated from a damaged building after an earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, in this February 22, 2011 image taken from video footage. A strong quake hit New Zealand's second-biggest city of Christchurch on Tuesday for the second time in five months, toppling buildings, causing "multiple fatalities", trapping people beneath rubble and sparking fires. (REUTERS)
New Zealand, which sits between the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates, records on average more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which about 20 would normally top magnitude 5.0.