Earthquake: Deaths, major damage after severe 7.5 quake hits Hanmer Springs, tsunami warning issued
Two people have been confirmed dead after a severe 7.5 earthquake hit North Canterbury early on Monday morning.
One person was killed when a Kaikoura homestead collapsed, while another died of a heart attack at a property at Mt Lyford.
The Kaikoura area was worst affected by the quake, and a military NH90 helicopter was being sent in to assess the extent of the damage.
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* Live coverage: Severe 7.5 quake rattles much of New Zealand
* Watch: Quake hits across the country
* What you need to know: evacuation points and welfare centres etc
* Where did the quake start?
* Tsunami sirens sounds across the country
* In photos: Severe quake hits New Zealand
* Ferry stranded after being unable to dock at Picton
* One person missing after Kaikoura homestead collapse
A tsunami alert was issued for all coastal areas of New Zealand, with warnings waves could be from three to five metres high between Blenheim and Banks Peninsula.
The earthquake just after midnight was centred 15km north-east of Culverden, near Hanmer Springs, at a depth of 15km.
Shortly before 8.15am the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) said a tsunami marine and beach threat was in force from Napier to north of Dunedin. Unusually strong currents and unpredictable water flows could be expected near the shore. "This means a threat to beach, harbour, estuary and small boat activities."
The threat for all other regions had been lifted, but unusually strong currents could be expected for some time.
Damage has been reported in many places across the country, and aftershocks continue to rattle many areas.
Roads in North Canterbury have been severely damaged and blocked by slips, while trains and ferries in both the North and South Islands have shut down.
Between Canterbury and Marlborough, highways, roads and bridges were closed due to quake damage.
All trains in the South Island, and south of Palmerston North in the North Island, were cancelled, KiwiRail said.
The New Zealand Transport Agency said State Highway 7 was closed between Waipara and Springs Junction, as was State Highway 7A between Hanmer Springs and Tekoa Range.
State Highway 1 from Blenheim to Waipara could be closed for at least two days.
The fire service sent a seven-member Urban Search and Rescue team from Christchurch to Kaikoura.
The earthquake was strongly felt in Christchurch, Wellington and Marlborough but also as far away as Taranaki, Hamilton and Auckland.
An interislander ferry was stranded at sea after being unable to dock at Picton immediately after the quake, and the Wellington ferry gangway was swept away.
St John incident controller Dion Rosario said resources were being sent into North Canterbury following the earthquake, including a command unit.
NZQA said New Zealand Scholarship examinations on Monday had been postponed at all schools/exam centres.
All NCEA examinations would continue as normal, and proceed at schools that were not earthquake-affected.
If a school had been affected and was closed, or students were unable to attend because of the quake, an emergency-derived grade process was available.
KAIKOURA AND AROUND
Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes to higher ground in Kaikoura, with two 6.2-magnitude aftershocks within an hour of the main shake, and a magnitude-6.0 quake around 2.30am. A magnitude-5.1 quake classed as severe hit the area around 6.15am.
The streets were lined with cars and Kaikoura's lookout was packed with locals and tourists.
The volunteer fire brigade were out checking on people while power lines were down across the district.
Major damage has been done to buildings, roads and railway lines. A major slip cut the main highway at Ohau Pt.
The TSB Arena and BNZ Centre on the waterfront had the most damage, the Fire Service said.
Wellington Free Ambulance was swamped by calls for help, but there were no injuries directly related to the quake among them.
Many of the capital's residents were evacuated after a tsunami warning was issued for all coastal areas of New Zealand.
The water at Lyall Bay was reportedly sucked out by 200m, and residents of low-lying areas were urged to evacuate and move to higher ground.
The area appeared to have almost completely cleared out on the back of tsunami warnings.
Hills surrounding the area were lined with people in cars seeking higher ground.
The sea surged in and out at Lyall Bay by several metres every couple of minutes.
In the CBD, hundreds of people were on the streets as building alarms sounded and fire trucks and police cars headed around the CBD.
Windows in some high-rise office buildings were smashed, while plaster and masonry appeared to have fallen down from some buildings.
Near Civic Square, hotel guests huddled together in bathrobes while they waited for their buildings to be cleared.
In Wakefield St, directly opposite the Wellington City Council offices, large chunks of masonry fell from a building, smashing glass below.
Emergency services had shut the street down.
Along Willis Street in Wellington's CBD, people lined the streets and sat in hotel lobbies.
One person died at a property at Mt Lyford, north of Christchurch.
The low-lying seaside suburb of Sumner was deserted after residents evacuated, and schools closed for the day.
Lyttelton tunnel has been closed until further notice.
A New Brighton family who evacuated their home after the quake returned to find their house ransacked by burglars.
Matt Mill said they family-of-four had left their home about 2am, after the tsunami risk was broadcast.
They returned to their Bower Ave home about 6.30am to find their home damaged, not from the shaking, nor any tsunami, but by burglars who took advantage of a suburb empty of people.
Mill said the burglars stole televisions, sports gear and distressingly, a transmitter for his daughter's hearing aid. His work truck was also stolen.
Linwood resident Alice Coats said the tsunami sirens have been going went off intermittently for a couple of hours.
The quake felt like a long wave, Coats said.
"So, we all knew it was a big one."
As soon as the tsunami warning came in, it was a little more frightening, so she jumped into her car with her flatmate, and went to the airport.
Coats said the vagueness of the Civil Defence warnings were frustrating.
Tsunami sirens started sounding along Christchurch's coastline at 2.14am.
A significant amount of traffic moved away from New Brighton and other coastal suburbs towards central Christchurch and the Port Hills
Police and Civil Defence have closed the tunnel (State Highway 74), which links Christchurch with the seaside suburb of Lyttelton.
The tunnel has been closed temporarily for checks following previous large earthquakes.
In the CBD, hotels and occupied buildings were evacuated.
HANMER SPRINGS AND AROUND
Hurunui locals struggled to get into Waiau, near the quake's epicentre, to check on family and friends left isolated after the initial earthquake, with roads around the area badly damaged and blocked by massive landslides, .
Corey Odonnell tried driving to Waiau, but parts of the road appeared to be impassable. Fallen farm buildings are scattered along the road from Culverden to Waiau.
From the air, it is clear there is significant damage in the rural township which is south-east of Hanmer Springs.
Power poles are down, large cracks are visible in the roads, bricks have fallen from the sides of many houses and chimneys have fallen from buildings. In the cemetery headstones have toppled.
A small amount of liquefaction can be seen from the air, bubbling through the bowling club green and nearby brick walls have fallen.
Jane Thompson, who lives near Cheviot in North Canterbury, said it was a "long, rolling earthquake".
All residents on the Cheviot water scheme and rural water schemes have been asked to conserve water, and should continue to boil water as a precautionary measure.
MARLBOROUGH AND NELSON
Thousands of Marlborough residents lost power after the quake.
A 33,000 volt line north of Ward was damaged, and there were reports of wires breaking, Marlborough Lines operations manager Brian Tapp said.
SH1 was closed at Ward with damage reported at the Ure Bridge.
Bridges at Spring Creek and near Tuamarina were also closed, while damage was assessed.
The Marlborough harbourmaster closed Tory Channel to shipping.
Nelson resident Jo Davis grabbed her children and sheltered in a doorway as the quake seemed to "go on forever".
The former Christchurch resident said it was a much longer, more rolling motion than the 2010 Canterbury quake.
Davis, who lives in the central city suburb of The Wood, said she was surprised there appeared to be no damage to the house.
"It really shook for a long time."
Shop windows were broken in central Blenheim.
Blenheim Countdown store manager Liz Nelson said the earthquake had knocked a lot of stock off the shelves.
"There's a bit of damage on the back wall, cracks in the plaster, but mostly it's stock on the floor," she said.
There were unconfirmed reports of looting. A police officer who stopped at the Countdown told staff about potential looting at a nearby chemist.
Blenheim resident Gemma Adams said she was lying in bed when she started to feel the bed swaying.
The length of the earthquake made it terrifying, Adams said.
"We were lying there going, 'what do we do, what do we do'."
Adams and her partner ran to the kitchen and got under the table.
Electricity was lost between Ward and Seddon and also in other pockets around Blenheim and surrounding townships.
State Highway 7 was closed between Springs junction and Hanmer Springs.
Power was lost between Granity and Meybille Bay, north of Punakaiki.
HAWKE'S BAY AND GISBORNE
Hundreds of people in low-lying areas in Hawke's Bay and the Gisborne-East Coast evacuated following the quake.
About 300 people gathered at Haumoana School after fleeing the coastal settlements of Haumoana and Te Awanga.
The tsunami threat was reduced to beach and marine only at 6am and residents were cleared to go home but told they must stay of the beaches.
While the quake was widely felt, there were no reports of damage in Hawke's Bay or Gisborne.
Hawke's Bay civil defence emergency management group group controller Ian Macdonald said a 20cm wave was recorded at Napier Port about 3am, believed to have been caused by the earthquake.
Macdonald said sirens were not activated as the evacuation zone was very small and "we didn't want to evacuate entire areas".
"Those needing evacuation were individually door-knocked," he said.
MANAWATU, WHANGANUI AND TARARUA
A tsunami warning and evacuation for Herbertville and Akitio was later reduced to a marine and beach threat.
WAIKATO AND BAY OF PLENTY
The tsunami warning for Waikato and Bay of Plenty was lowered to a marine and beach threat, but Civil Defence warned that could change.
In Hamilton, Wayne Timmo woke to the kitchen blinds banging against the window and said the quake felt like a "long slow, rolling or almost rotating motion".
"The water in the neighbour's swimming pool was left sloshing around for about a minute and people woken by the quake came out onto the street to talk about it.
Thousands of people were without electricity in New Plymouth, Stratford, Eltham and Hawera, and some powerlines came down.
The quake was felt in Auckland, including at Middlemore Hospital, where patients were sent running from their beds.