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31 December 2011

Quake rattles New Zealand's Christchurch: USGS

(Reuters) - An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 struck close to the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake was measured only about 14 km (9 miles) northeast of the city. It was another in a series of quakes that have rattled the city since a major earthquake killed almost 200 people there 10 months ago.

There were no immediate reports of a tsunami warning.

A quake of a similar magnitude was felt in the area on December 23, sending terrified residents from their houses but causing no casualties or major damage.

Christchurch, the largest city in New Zealand's South Island, is still recovering from a quake measuring 6.3 that killed 182 people in February and caused up to NZ$20 billion ($15.5 billion) in damage.

Large areas of Christchurch's business district are still off limits after the February quake, which toppled the city's famous cathedral, as well as shops, office buildings and homes.

New Zealand straddles the boundaries of the Indo-Australian and the Pacific tectonic plates and is hit by about 14,000 quakes every year, of which only a small number top a magnitude of 5.

- Reuters