A massive 7.1 earthquake rocked New Zealand's South Island, causing widespread damage to buildings and roads, knocking out power, and ripping facades off buildings in Christchurch, the country's second-largest city. Despite the quake's severity, only several serious injuries are reported. Hospitals are mostly "treating a number of people with broken bones, and others with minor injuries such as cuts and bruises," reports Radio New Zealand.
The quake was initially reported at 7.4 magnitude but later downgraded. "It was centred 30km west of [Christchurch] and 33km underground," reports Stuff.co.nz "It hit at 4.35am and has been followed by a series of strong aftershocks. It was felt widely across the South Island and as far north as Wellington. "
Christchurch has a population of about 386,000, but no casualties have yet been reported. The quake has disrupted mobile telephone service across the South Island. Rail service has been suspended pending inspections. Christchurch Airport has also been closed as a precaution.
President Barack Obama will nominate David Huebner, currently serving as the general counsel for GLAAD, as the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, The Advocate reports:
Huebner is a partner in the Shanghai law office of Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton and heads the firm’s International Disputes practice and its China practice. Huebner co-chaired the board of directors of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in 1997 and has served as legal counsel. He has also taught international business and intellectual property classes at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law.
Huebner becomes the first gay man nominated to an ambassadorship in the Obama Administration. The first two: James Hormel, ambassador to Luxembourg during the Clinton Administration, and Michael Guest, ambassador to Romania during the Bush Administration.