CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — A strong aftershock rocked terrified residents of New Zealand's earthquake-stricken city of Christchurch on Wednesday, as officials doubled their estimate for repairing the damage following nearly 300 temblors in five days.
The latest quake, which registered magnitude 5.1, was centered just four miles (six kilometers) below the Earth's surface and six miles (10 kilometers) southeast of the city. No one was reported injured, but it was felt by residents as the strongest since Saturday's magnitude-7.1 earthquake wrecked hundreds of buildings.
"My guts are just churning up here. When will this thing end? It is like living in a maelstrom," Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said as workers streamed from the city's emergency headquarters.
"We were starting to think maybe, just maybe, we are over the worst of this, and now we have had this shocking event," Parker told NewstalkZB radio. "This is a hammer blow to the spirit of a lot of people."
After his second, closer look at the quake damage on Wednesday, Prime Minister John Key said he thought that rebuilding the city would cost more than the initial estimate of 2 billion New Zealand dollars ($1.4 billion), with at least 500 buildings already condemned and about 100,000 of the area's 160,000 houses damaged.
Treasury Secretary John Whitehead later said the full bill for quake damage could reach NZ$4 billion, with the nation's Earthquake Commission likely to pay half of that.