Nightly News   |  February 22, 2011

Death toll still rising after New Zealand quake

A devastating quake has left at least 75 people dead and the city of Christchurch largely in ruins in what New Zealand's Prime Minister has called the country's "darkest day." NBC's Sara James reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> always. you know doubt have heard a powerful and deadly earthquake has hit new zealand . much of the city of christchurch is in ruins. officials are warning the numbers are likely to rise, because of the aftershocks that have been rattling the city all day long. it makes rescues near impossible. the prime minister is calling this new zealand 's darkest day. our colleague sarah james has our report tonight from christchurch .

>> reporter: the 6.3 earthquake rocked the historic town of christchurch , a city of 350,000. this was ground zero . it was a busy time of day here, lunchtime, when the powerful quake hit. entire neighborhoods flooded. fires broke out from ruptured gas lines, communications were cut. water and medical equipment in short supply. in seconds, new zealand 's second largest city was destroyed.

>> this building comes down, you have no chance.

>> reporter: for many, no time to run. it was too late. dozens are confirmed dead , and the death toll rising.

>> it's just absolutely awful.

>> reporter: buildings pancaked. pools of liquefied earth swirled in the streets disfigured by huge cracks. at least 100 people are reported missing.

>> there was a guy on the floor, he was covered to his waist in concrete and stuff. i have never seen anything like it in my life.

>> reporter: the spehr on the city's famous cathedral came tumbling down.

>> we have some folks up there we want so fto try to get out.

>> reporter: office workers pulled the injured from the rubble. emergency workers are rushing in from around the world. medical teams created triage centers in open areas. one woman said, it was our 9/11. sarah james , nbc news, christchurch, new zealand .