New Zealand Hit by Second Large Earthquake in Five Months
Production of "The Hobbit" does not immediately appear to be affected, far from the epicenter in Christchurch.
SYDNEY -- New Zealand is reeling after a second massive earthquake in five months hit the south island city of Christchurch Tuesday, killing at least 65 people and causing widespread destruction in the city’s central business district.
New Zealand prime minister John Key described the quake as "New Zealand’s darkest day."
Film New Zealand and the New Zealand Film Commission, however, have told The Hollywood Reporter that no film or TV productions have been impacted.
Production on The Hobbit, which is due to start March 21, appears to be unaffected immediately by the Christchurch quake.
The Hobbit is being made in Wellington, situated on the North Island of NZ, while Christchurch is on the South Island, a seven-hour ferry ride and drive from Wellington, or less than an hour by air.
Wellington’s film center houses Stone Street Studios where The Hobbit is based and Weta Digital. Key cast members are currently in training for The Hobbit in Wellington and Ian McKellen, (Gandalf) arrived in the city last week.
Nevertheless reports from NZ Tuesday said that aftershocks had been felt in Wellington, and Christchurch is the main jumping off point for many of the spectacular locations in The Lord of the Rings.
The only external location already confirmed for The Hobbit is Mata Mata, also in the north island.
No immediate comment was available from The Hobbit's production company, 3foot7.
New Zealand is set to host the Rugby World Cup in September, with four pool games and two quarter-final games scheduled to be played at the newly-renovated Stadium Christchurch, 25 minutes from the city centre.
A spokesman for Rugby NZ said that it was too early to tell if there had been any damage to the stadium and an assessment of the earthquake’s effect on the tournament would be made after rescue and recovery efforts were well over.
Rugby NZ has “prudent planning for contingencies which includes for natural disasters but it's still too early to tell the effect on the stadium and hotels,” he said.
New Zealand and Australian TV networks quickly moved to rolling coverage of the natural disaster.
The quake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale was less intense but the damage sustained was greater than the 7.1 quake on Sept. 4 last year, as it hit at the busy lunch hour on a weekday, was 5 km (3 miles) underground compared to 10 km and many buildings had been weakened by the September event.