Overnight Christchurch quake upgraded

A sharp quake which rocked Christchurch last night has been upgraded to a magnitude 5.4.

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The quake rocked the region at 10.34pm and was followed by a further 10 aftershocks overnight, with the biggest being a magnitude 4.4 shortly before 3.30am.

A Christchurch supermarket sustained more damage in the 5.4 aftershock than it did during the February 22 or June 13 quakes.

A Halswell New World staff member said "everything fell off every shelf". The store lost "an extensive amount of stock" with wine and juice bottles smashed in the aisles.

About a dozen staff came in to clean up the mess for four hours last night.

The main jolt was first thought to be centred 10km west of Akaroa, but GNS seismologist John Ristau said this morning that records now show it was centred just 10km south of Christchurch city, near Halswell.

The New World staffer, who did not want to be named, said she was not surprised to hear the earthquake centre was actually close to Halswell.

"It must have been centred near here because this is the most amount of damage we have sustained this year."

Following the midnight clean-up the supermarket opened on schedule at 7.30am today.

Mayor Bob Parker, on his Facebook page, said the city should expect a few more "tremblers".

GNS Science duty seismologist John Ristau said it appeared another small fault below Banks Peninsula had ruptured, causing the sharply felt magnitude 5.4 quake.

"You are sitting on hard volcanic rocks there and when it breaks, it tends to break very strongly, producing a lot of shaking and energy."

By 11.30pm the GeoNet website had more than 1000 "felt reports" from as far afield as Paraparaumu and Invercargill.

Four from Hornby and the Upper Riccarton area considered it was heavily damaging, with 13 classifying it as damaging and more than 100 as slightly damaging.

Lincoln resident Farhad Dastgheib said the quake pushed his bed around violently.

"We heard a rumble and thought not again. It didn't last as long as last Monday's quake but still felt scary. The aftershocks keep coming."

The quake was the strongest since magnitude 5.7 and 6.3 shocks hit Christchurch last Monday.

While Christchurch Airport was carrying out runway checks following the quake, four flights were diverted to Auckland, an airport spokeswoman said. 

Two inbound trans-Tasman Air New Zealand flights, NZ888 from Sydney and NZ804 from Brisbane, were diverted to Auckland.
Two other flights, Pacific Blue's DJ82 from Brisbane and Jetstar's JQ191 from Gold Coast, were diverted to Auckland but had planned to return to Christchurch at 2.05am, as long as the runways were clear.


Meanwhile, public pressure has forced the Government to announce some details on the fate of thousands of earthquake-damaged Christchurch homes.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday would not rule out an announcement in Christchurch tomorrow.

Labour's earthquake recovery spokesman, Clayton Cosgrove, claimed letters would be in the mail today, followed by a media conference tomorrow, and then public meetings.

Key chaired a meeting of senior ministers over the issue last night but remained tight-lipped afterwards.

"The Government needs to get this as right as it possibly can for the people of Christchurch and I wouldn't want to rush the situation because of a political timetable and deliver a worse outcome for the people of Christchurch," he said.

Key was scheduled to visit Christchurch tomorrow and said an announcement was "getting closer," but said he could not guarantee anything for this week.

However, it is understood public pressure has pushed the Government to reveal some of the details of a package agreed with private insurers and the EQC.

It is not expected to be the full package but more data about land damage should be released.

- The Press and The Dominion Post, with JOHN HARTEVELT and VERNON SMALL/Stuff