New Zealand, New Zealand

For the second time in less than six months, the New Zealand city of Christchurch has been hit by an earthquake of devastating magnitude. Today’s 6.3 tremor was lower in intensity than the 7.1 quake last September, but the shallower depth and closer location of the epicentre to the city has meant the damage this time is much, much worse. Already, there are 65 people confirmed dead with many more still missing or trapped in collapsed buildings. (Google has set up a person finder website here if you have or are seeking information.)

New Zealand earthquake

Collapsed buildings and debris along Manchester Street in Christchurch. Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images

In terms of natural disasters, Australians have seen a truly horrendous start to 2011 and now we watch as our friends and neighbours — and often family members — across the Tasman battle through the aftermath of yet another. Our very best thoughts and wishes are most certainly with them.

If you are in a position to help out financially, the New Zealand Red Cross will be posting details of an official earthquake appeal on their website tomorrow and Westpac Bank has already set one up, with all donations to be directed to the Salvation Army.

I’m tempted to remark that 2011 can surely — only — get better from here on in, but the fates are fickle and always have their ears open …