New Zealand’s deadliest earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, struck at 10.47 a.m., destroying much of central Napier and Hastings. Fire, especially in Napier, finished off what was left.
Dozens of buildings collapsed, including Napier’s cathedral, public library and nurses’ home, where eight nurses were killed.
The sea rushed out of Ahuriri lagoon, uplifting 1300 ha of dry land. The official death toll was 256, but the actual figure may have been 258. It remains the worst civil disaster to have occurred in New Zealand (257 people died in the 1979 Mt Erebus plane crash in Antarctica).