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Christchurch's central city and eastern suburbs were badly affected, with damage to buildings and infrastructure already weakened by the magnitude 7.1 Canterbury earthquake of 4 September 2010 and its aftershocks.Significant liquefaction affected the eastern suburbs, producing around 400,000 tonnes of silt.
While the initial quake only lasted for approximately 10 seconds, the damage was severe because of the location and shallowness of the earthquake's epicentre in relation to Christchurch and previous quake damage.115 people died in the building, which housed a TV station, a medical clinic and an English language school.The earthquake destroyed the Christ Church Cathedral's spire and part of its tower, and severely damaged the structure of the remaining building.The remainder of the tower was demolished in March 2012.In each of these cases the buildings that collapsed were known to have been appreciably damaged in the September 2010 earthquake but the local authority had permitted the building to be re-occupied (CTV and PGC buildings) or protective barriers adjacent to them moved closer to areas at risk of falling debris (Colombo Street)./ On 28 February 2011, the Prime Minister announced that there would be an inquiry into the collapse of buildings that had been signed off as safe after the 4 September 2010 earthquake, "to provide answers to people about why so many people lost their lives." Of the 3,000 buildings inspected within the four avenues of the central city by 3 March 2011, 45% had been given red or yellow stickers to restrict access because of the safety problems.
Many heritage buildings were given red stickers after inspections.
The six-storey Canterbury Television (CTV) building collapsed in the earthquake, leaving only its lift shaft standing, which caught fire.
Subsequent population loss saw the Christchurch main urban area fall behind the Wellington equivalent to decrease from second to third most populous area in New Zealand.
Over half of the deaths occurred in the six-storey Canterbury Television (CTV) Building, which collapsed and caught fire in the earthquake.
A state of local emergency was initially declared by the Mayor of Christchurch, which was superseded when the government declared a state of national emergency, which stayed in force until 30 April 2011.
Of the 185 victims, 115 people died in the Canterbury Television building alone, while another 18 died in the collapse of PGC House, and eight were killed when masonry fell on Red Bus number 702 in Colombo Street.