A 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday morning, killing at least 65 people and causing widespread damage.

A large-scale evacuation of the central city is under way, due to fears of a tsunami, according to the website of the New Zealand Police. Tourism New Zealand said a state of emergency has been declared in Christchurch.

At least 65 people are dead, and the New York Times reported that the death toll is likely to rise beacause many people were reported missing and feared trapped in the wreckage of several collapsed buildings. 

The Times also reported that Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand had witnessed "its darkest day" and one of its worst natural disasters.

The spire of the 147-year-old Christchurch Cathedral toppled, the main hospital is being evacuated and the Christchurch airport is closed.

Tourism New Zealand is advising against all nonessential travel to the city.

All other South Island and New Zealand airports are operating, said Tourism New Zealand, which suggested that travelers check with their airline or travel agent before leaving.

Passengers on a Hapag-Lloyd cruise ship returned safely to the vessel after being on shore excursion buses during the quake.

The German cruise line said all passengers on the 408-passenger Europe were "healthy and uninjured."

Hapag added that the ship was not damaged and that its operations were not impacted by the quake. The vessel left Christchurch and will continue on its scheduled itinerary, Hapag said.

Cunard Line canceled the Queen Mary 2’s scheduled call in Christchurch, according to the Otago Daily Times.

Princess Cruises said it is determining whether it will be necessary to alter the itineraries of two ships scheduled to call in Christchurch next week.

The Sun Princess is slated to call there on Feb. 28, and the Dawn Princess on March 4.

Christchurch was hit by a 7.0-magnitude quake last September.

This report was updated on Tuesday afternoon with information about Princess Cruises.


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