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Deaths reported as major quake hits New Zealand

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WELLINGTON – Multiple deaths were reported as a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch in New Zealand Tuesday, toppling buildings, igniting fires and sending panicked people rushing into the streets.

The widespread damage came from a shallow lunch-time tremor in a city of 340,000 still recovering from a powerful quake in September, which did not cause any fatalities but did weaken many buildings.

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Christchurch airport was temporarily closed and police said they were evacuating the city centre as building frontages collapsed, with witnesses saying there were people trapped inside.

Cars were buried under rubble and roads buckled as the tremor opened ruptures in the ground.

“It was just unbelievable, it was so strong, nothing like I’ve ever experienced before, just horrible,” local shopkeeper Julian Hogday told TV3.

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.

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“Other reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central (city) and persons reported trapped in buildings.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key feared the worst after the quake struck at 12:51 pm (2351 GMT Monday), five kilometres (three miles) from the city at a depth of just four kilometres.

“It is a very populated time with people at work, children at school,” he said.

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“Sadly I cannot rule out whether there have been fatalities or not, but we are aware of significant damage to buildings that had people in them at the time.”

On September 4, Christchurch suffered the most destructive quake to hit New Zealand in 80 years when a 7.0-magnitude tremor damaged 100,000 homes, leaving a clean-up bill estimated at NZ$4.0 billion dollars (US$3.0 billion).

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The city remained under a state of emergency for weeks with police cordoning off the centre for fear of collapsing buildings, as thousands of aftershocks hit the region.

At the time, authorities gave a clean bill of health to Christchurch’s 36,000-capacity AMI stadium, one of the venues for the rugby World Cup starting in September.


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Hong Kong marks Tiananmen crackdown as anthem insults and vigil banned

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Hong Kong marked China's deadly Tiananmen crackdown on Thursday, with candle-light ceremonies planned across the city after authorities banned a mass vigil at a time of seething anger over a planned new security law.

The commemorations fell on another febrile day of political tension in the semi-autonomous city as lawmakers approved a Beijing-backed bill criminalizing insults to China's national anthem.

Pro-democracy politicians refused to cast their ballots with one throwing a foul-smelling liquid on the floor in a bid to halt proceedings and others shouting slogans as the votes were cast.

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Pakistan couple arrested for allegedly murdering seven-year-old maid

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A Pakistan couple have been arrested for allegedly murdering their seven-year-old maid after she was blamed for letting a pet bird escape, police said, the latest case of violence against child domestic workers in the country.

Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a middle-class suburb of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, to care for their son of a similar same age.

"The poor girl was subjected to torture by Siddiqui and his wife who accused her of freeing one of the four pet Macao parrots," investigating officer Mukhtar Ahmad told AFP on Thursday.

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Tokyo weighs scaled-back Olympics, says governor

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Tokyo 2020 officials are looking at ways to scale back next year's postponed Olympics, the city's governor said Thursday, amid reports the opening ceremony could be streamlined and spectator numbers cut.

Yuriko Koike told reporters that organisers were weighing up what could be "rationalised and simplified" as costs spiral for holding the first postponed Games in history.

The International Olympic Committee announced in March the Games would be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and brought international travel to a virtual halt.

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