Aftershockes continue to shake central New Zealand, a day after the earthquake swarm that damaged nearly every house at its epicentre in Seddon, though very few homes are unhabitable.
The latest significant aftershock was magnitude 5.8, 18km deep and 25km south-east of Seddon at 8.58pm.
Dozens of aftershocks today continued to rattle the top of the South Island and the Wellington region since yesterday's biggest quake, which hit at 2.31pm, rocking nearby Seddon and Ward, and sending people fleeing Wellington city.
Civil Defence officials said most of the damage in Seddon was confined to roofs, brickwork, chimneys and windows.
Roading contractors are out on the roads this evening, continuing to clear slips.
Only 10 houses were still without power out of the 6900 cut off in Marlborough yesterday.
Marlborough Lines managing director Ken Forrest said six zone sub-stations switched off immediately after the magnitude 6.6 quake. This was what they were designed to do during quakes, for safety reasons.
Staff then checked and progressively restored supply.
The main road between Christchurch and Blenheim has reopened just after midday after the 6.6 quake opened up large cracks in the ground between Seddon and Ward, but motorists were being warned care was still needed.
The 20 kilometre stretch of road between Seddon and Ward had also been hit by 500 cubic metres of earth that fell from banks above the road during the shaking.
NZTA highways manager Frank Porter said contractors put in a ''heroic'' effort to restore the highway after yesterday's earthquake opened up several large cracks.
Engineers had inspected all bridges and decided they were safe. The problem was with approaches to the bridges, and any slumps were being filled in.
Further roadworks would be needed to patch up the the highway, with delays likely, Porter said.
The rail line between Picton and Kaikoura has been closed while track and tunnels were checked. A Civil Defence spokeswoman said the line was expected to remain closed until at least tomorrow.
Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee and Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye have arrived at Seddon School to reassure people who'd fled quake damaged homes yesterday.
Brownlee said they wanted to hear from residents about anything they could do to help them through this time.
"I have a fair idea what you are going through, and how you are feeling," he said.
He encouraged anyone whose homes had been affected by the quakes to call 0800 damage (0800 326 243) or make a claim with EQC.
"They will be here on Monday to get things moving as quickly as possible."
Mayor Alistair Sowman also visited the welfare centre. He said council staff were trying to determine which houses were the issues were the highest priority.
"There are a lot of issues with road damage and the structural damage to houses is much worse this time.
Sowman said there were a number of council staff, tradesmen ready to begin work on the highest priority homes.
About 20 people spent the night at the school, including David and Leane Dredge who left their Carkeek St home immediately after yesterday's 6.6 quake.
"We slept in here [welfare centre] last night, the response this time from Red Cross and emergency services has been fantastic, they've been tremendous," Dave Dredge said.
He said yesterday's tremor swarm was much worse than the July quakes.
"It was unbelievable, the biggest problem was getting out of the house, but once we got out...the aftershocks; to watch them come through like a wave coming up the beach was unbelievable...we were just awestruck."
Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, has treated five people for earthquake-related injuries.
A 62-year-old woman was admitted to hospital with a broke back. She had been out to check on her two neighbours after the initial earthquake and on her return slipped on water from her hot water cylinder that had spilt on to tiles when it ruptured during the earthquake.
A spokeswoman said she was in a stable condition. She was expected to be in hospital for two or three days.
CAPITAL BACK ON TRACK
Further north, Central Wellington is open for business as usual, despite some cordoned off areas and continuing aftershocks.
Extra police patrols were on the street in Wellington.
''It will be another anxious time for the community while we ride out this string of quakes. Police are providing extra patrols on the city streets tonight to ensure community safety,'' Superintendent Sue Schwalger said.
''As with the previous series of earthquakes, police anticipate a decrease in calls for service as most people have left the city. The extra patrols provide a greater visible Police presence so that the community can feel safe and assured that Police can respond to any emergency''.
Traffic was now back to normal, after blockages caused by people trying to leave the city last night.
All bus, train and ferry services were operating as normal.
Some buildings sustained minor damage but there have been no reports of major structural damage so far, according to the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office.
One street, Lukes Lane, remained cordoned off pending the demolition of a lift shaft which was damaged in July's big shake.
Some lift machinery would be removed today, but the bulk of the work would have to wait till a big crane arrived from Christchurch, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said.
''We need something that is capable of lifting a 30-tonne slab of concrete.''
Council engineers had checked out civic building and bridges, while some private building inspections were ongoing.
There were some reports of water damage, but no further structural damage had yet been found.
Seismologists have warned the aftershocks will keep coming.
GNS scientist Kelvin Berryman said yesterday's earthquake swarm appeared to be a "rejuvenation" of the area shaken last month.
"You can anticipate pretty meaty aftershocks with a quake of that strength, so it's not such a surprise that we've had so many since."
The quakes also triggered a small cluster of earthquakes in Levin, Taihape, South Taranaki and closer to Wellington.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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