Huge earthquake rocks Christchurch

BY PRESS REPORTERS
Last updated 22:34 04/09/2010

Worcester Street blaze

Mayor talks about earthquake

Aerial footage of quake damage

Christchurch Earthquake

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LANCE BURKE
A car crushed by falling rubble from the earthquake.

SlideshowDestructive 7.1 Christchurch earthquake, key locations


View Destructive 7.1 Christchurch earthquake in a larger map
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This graph shows today's earthquake provided by Geonet.
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Daniel Tobin
This mornings earthquake has badly damaged buildings around Christchurch.
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This poem was written by George Sharman, a Year 12 pupil at Chisnallwood Intermediate. His class all wrote poems about the earthquake.

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Christchurch is still being rocked by aftershocks 15 hours after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake which caused widespread damage.

At 4.55pm the city was hit by its biggest aftershock - a 5.4 magnitude shake centred about 10km southwest of Darfield at a depth of 10km - since the 4.35am shake which has left thousands without power and water as night falls.

Since 4.30pm the city has experienced at least seven major aftershocks, including a 4.3 magnitude quake focused only 10km southwest of Christchurch at 6.54pm, according to the GeoNet website.

By 10pm tonight there had been several further strong aftershocks.


Prime Minister John Key, who saw first-hand the devastation across Christchurch this afternoon, said it was a miracle more people weren't killed.

"This is a very, very sizeable earthquake in a very populated part of New Zealand."

Eighty police officers from Auckland will be flying in to assist with general duties and recovery in Christchurch tonight.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 Hercules is currently en route to Christchurch carrying Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) personnel and dogs.

Forty two USAR personnel, their equipment and three USAR dogs from the Auckland and Palmerston North areas are on board.

Two Iroquois helicopters from No. 3 Squadron at Ohakea have also been tasked to assist in Christchurch.

They will be available to undertake aerial reconnaissance and damage assessment as required by Civil Defence.

Due to potential contamination of the fuel at Christchurch airport, a RNZAF fuel tanker is heading from Ohakea to Christchurch to supply the RNZAF aircraft.  

The CBD will remain shut overnight with police manning cordons throughout the area.

No licensed premises will be open in the CBD, and members of the public will not be allowed within the cordon.

Police are urging people to stay at home and out of the central city until further notice.

There is a formal curfew in place under Section 88 of the Civil Defence Emergency Act 2002 between the hours of 7pm and 7am.

The areas affected by this curfew are the CBD block between Kilmore Street., Madras Street, Montreal Street and St Asaph Street, currently cordoned, and the shopping centre and township area of Kaiapoi.

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This is in order to protect the public from falling debris. Any person breaching the curfew can be arrested, and police are asking for cooperation so that they do not have to waste time dealing with these offences.

Westpac lends a hand

Westpac has announced a special relief package to assist customers impacted by today's earthquake in Christchurch.

"Our thoughts are with all those whose lives have been unsettled by the earthquake, some of whom are Westpac customers," said Westpac Chief Executive Officer, George Frazis.

"We understand the financial stress these situations can cause and want to help relieve that burden for our customers. Westpac is providing a package which offers practical help by giving some immediate financial relief."

The package offers such relief as deferral of home loan repayments, a temporary overdraft and interest only payments on loans.

Westpac customers who wish to take advantage of these special relief measures or need assistance with lost credit cards or insurance should contact 0800 400 600.

TelstraClear offers assistance

TelstraClear is kicking off the Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker's relief fund with a $100,000 donation to the city rocked by today's earthquake.
 
CEO Allan Freeth says:  "Christchurch is a city of considerable importance to TelstraClear.  We have had offices and staff there for many years.

"Today we're just very thankful that, as far as we can tell, no lives have been lost as a direct result of the quake. 

"We hope others will now follow our lead and work towards getting this great city back on its feet."

Damage to the TelstraClear network is still being assessed and crisis teams are working to ensure voice services remain a priority.

"Our aim is to ensure we have sufficient back-up power to ensure our services are e maintained or brought back on line as soon as possible. 

International scientists on the way

Scientists from as far away as the United States are on their way to Canterbury to deploy portable monitoring equipment to record aftershocks.

GNS Science, Victoria University of Wellington and Stanford University seismologists will start to install the equipment around midday tomorrow and will leave the battery-powered seismographs for about three weeks to find out more about the mechanics of the main shock and rupture.

Fire breaks out incity

An inner city fire has broken out in quake-hit Christchurch as Prime Minister John Key tours the city.

The fire seemed to start spontaneously at a central city building not far from the corner of Manchester and Worcester Sts.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker was showing Key the aftermath of the quake after a briefing at Civil Defence headquarters.

While fire officers arrived, Parker told Key the city feared fires breaking out in the city when it was not clear if there was water pressure.

However, water soon flowed from fire hoses as more fire appliances arrived at the scene.

Rail service to be restored

Rail links to Christchurch from the south should be restored later today following this morning's earthquake, clearing the way for delivery of bulk drinking water if required by Civil Defence.
 
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn says plans were in place to bring in almost 300,000 of drinking water from Temuka into Christchurch later tonight.
 
"Our priority today has been to get as much of the network reopened as quickly as possible so we can assist with the recovery programme," he says.
 
Although extensive damage at Kaiapoi could see the Main North Line closed there for up to  three days,  it  is expected the network will be reopened to as far south as Rangiora later today as well.
 
"We would then be in a position to run trains from  Picton to Ranigora and  move goods from there into Christchurch by road. if necessary until we get the line re-opened"
  
Track crews will be working through the night at Kaiapoi to begin repairs to extensive damage to a bridge and around five kilometres of track.
 
The Midland line to the West Coast is expected to be reopened tomorrow, after track damage at Rolleston can be repaired.

None of the 15 trains operating on South Island rail lines derailed when the earthquake struck early this morning and all staff are safe and well.  The entire South Island rail network was closed while staff checked rail tracks and bridges.
 
The network was reopened to trains north of Kaikoura and south of Dunedin at 10.30 this morning.
  
The Lyttleton tunnel has been inspected and is safe, and there appears to be no track damage in central Christchurch.

Request for military help

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has requested the army to help provide safety and security in the city in the wake of the country's most damaging earthquake since the 1931 Napier disaster.

Parker told The Press he had requested Prime Minister John Key ask the army to maintain safety and security and help the police over the next 24 hours.

Cost could top one billion

Today's massive quake in Canterbury could cost the Government as much as $1 billion in insurance claims making it our most expensive disaster on record, The Earthquake Commission says.

Chief executive Ian Simpson said rough estimates were that the commission would receive about 100,000 claims from Christchurch home-owners for earthquake damage, which could potentially cost up to $1 billion.

''The claims could cost into the hundreds of millions and might reach $1 billion,'' he said.

As the commission does not cover commercial property and only pays up to $100,000 per residential dwelling the overall insurance cost could be much more.

Simpson says the costs of claims will dwarf any previous natural disaster, with New Zealand's last big quake in Fiordland last year drawing only 6000 claims worth about $4 million.

People with damaged homes should make claims to the commission in addition to their insurance companies by calling 0800 DAMAGE over the next week.

People who do not have house insurance are not cover by the commission.

One person has been confirmed dead following a heart attack suffered during the earthquake, according to Christchurch Hospital.

John Key arrives in Christchurch

Prime Minister John Key has just arrived in Christchurch and is holding a media conference. He told reporters he had seen the damage from the air and it was extensive.

"It will be some time before we know the full extent of the damage but the early indications are it could run into the billions of dollars,'' Key said.

Key is to receive a briefing from Civil Defence officials shortly. "It is likely there will be some very big costs involved around the city's sewerage and water infrastructure.''

Key said a mayoral fund would be set up to help fund the relief effort.

The Salvation Army has launched an appeal for funds - see below.

Meanwhile, seismologists are warning Christchurch and Canterbury residents a big aftershock is probably still on the way.

Close to 20 aftershocks have rattled across the region since the 7.1-magnitude quake at 4.35am.

 Most have had magnitudes between four and five, and three others have been of magnitude 5.2 or 5.3.

 But GNS Science says a large aftershock of about one magnitude less - around six or a bit more in this case-  usually occurs after such a major earthquake.

 "We haven't had the six or so you'd usually expect after something like this," spokesman John Callan said.

 A magnitude six earthquake has 30 times more energy than a magnitude five.

 Duty GNS seismologist John Ristau said the large aftershock was "the typical rule of thumb".

 "It's typical, but there's nothing to say it will definitely happen. If you don't get one, of course, then that's better."

 Aftershocks could continue for weeks but the larger ones were only likely in the next 48 hours.

Universities closed for a week

Christchurch's two universities will be closed this week after a massive earthquake left the campuses in need of clean-ups and health and safety assessments.

Canterbury Vice-Chancellor Rod Carr said all staff and students were to stay away from the university, including the halls of residences, as the institute would not open before 6am on September 13.

Roger Field, Lincoln's Vice-Chancellor, said the same applied to his campus until further notice.

Both institutes' fourth term was scheduled to start on Monday Sept 6 after a mid-semester break.

Carr said there was no obvious serious damage at Canterbury, aside from cracks in buildings, chemical spills and messy libraries, but building surveys and a clean-up were needed.

The spilled chemicals, which included formaldehyde in the biological sciences department, had been contained, he said. Specialist teams would be brought in to clean up.

Speaking to The Press on Saturday afternoon, Field said many of Lincoln University's buildings were in ``bad shape'' with broken windows, computers in disarray and general mess.

The institute was also without power.

Both vice-chancellors said no staff were allowed on campus without permission from a senior management team member.

Students at Canterbury's halls of residence were not able to return to their hall before September 12 and were advised to check the university's website before leaving home.

Lincoln halls students were also discouraged from returning until next weekend.

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology chief executive Kay Giles said classes were expected to continue on Monday as usual, but depended on assessments made tomorrow and on Monday morning.

 

Central city locked down

Central Christchurch has been closed by police until tomorrow following this morning's devastating earthquake. 

Inspector Al Stewart said the area would be closed while assessments of damaged buildings were carried out.

''No businesses or licensed premises will be open and no persons, other than inner-City residents or persons with a bona-fide reason to enter the area, will be allowed in. Police will man cordons throughout the night.''

The Central Business District area affected is contained within the Montreal Street, Kilmore Street, Madras Street and St Asaph Street area.

Historic buildings throughout Christchurch have partially or fully collapsed following the 7.1 magnitude quake, which struck at around 430am.  

Prime Minister John Key has pledged Government support for Christchurch in the wake of today's major earthquake.

Key is on his way to Christchurch with senior Government ministers. He said shortly before leaving that the Government would assist the city in any way possible.

"We are not going to let Christchurch suffer this great tragedy on its own.''

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has told shaken Canterbury residents that support has been offered from the ''highest levels of Government''.

Parker was speaking at a Civil Defence press conference outside temporary headquarters at the Christchurch Art Gallery today.

A state of emergency has been declared following this morning's huge 7.1 magnitude quake and will be in place until Monday or Tuesday.

''There has not been a house or a family in our city who have not suffered damage in some way,'' Parker said.

''But this is a city working together to do what we can before nightfall.

''We have had immediate response and offers of support from the highest levels of government. However, we will only ask for it if we need it.''

The fine weather had been a blessing, he said.

Rob Saunders from the fire service said Urban Search and Rescue teams are being flown from the North Island to help with the assessment process.

About eight people had been rescued from lifts or pits opening up in the ground, he said.

Canterbury Health Board chief executive David Meates said the flow of people through Christchurch Hospital's emergency department had been like ''a typical Saturday night''.

The common injuries were cuts and fractures but one man is in intensive care after being crushed by a crumbling chimney.

Burwood Hospital is without water.

''Public health is going to be a real issue over the next few days so it is important that communities look after each other and not create an unnecessary burden on services,'' Meates said.

Al Stewart, of the Canterbury  Police, said reports of looting were exaggerated and there had only been a handful of incidents.

He said residents behaviour had ''predominantly been good''.

Parker said much of the building damage had been to rather to older style homes and warehouses but not been to major heritage buildings.

The central city is closed but its 8000 residents are allowed access to their homes.

The main messages were to conserve water, do not flush the toilet unless necessary, and not to ''rubberneck'' because it was important roads were clear for vital services.

''We are not looking at a levelled city but we are coming to terms with the damage which is a bit like an iceberg, there may be significant structural damage underneath,'' Parker said.

He urged people to check on their neighbours. "The most important thing is that there has been no loss of life.''

Aftershocks continue

Major aftershocks are rocking Christchurch late this morning in the wake of this morning's massive 7.1 magnitude quake.

A state of emergency has been declared and search and rescue teams have been deployed around Christchurch to check for trapped people in the rubble of this morning's major earthquake.

Christchurch fire service spokesman Mike Bowden there were a number of people trapped in their houses and other buildings by falling chimneys, jammed doors and blocked entrances.

However, there were no reports of people pinned underneath rubble so far.

Bowden said the station had been flooded with calls but fire services were only responding to "cases of life and death."

Christchurch Hospital is calling for back-up from all off-duty emergency department staff who are able to travel into work safely.

The central business district of Christchurch has been closed to all traffic as police try to keep sightseers and looters from the scene.

Sallies launch earthquake appeal

The Salvation Army has launched an appeal for funds to help those affected by the 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

Within hours of the disaster, the Salvation Army was asked to feed around 1000 people in at least two Christchurch locations, and was ready to mobilise in other areas as requested by Civil Defence.

In Christchurch's suburbs and rural locations, The Salvation Army has also been responding to the emergency situation.

"There will be a multitude of needs in the days following the earthquake, and The Salvation Army is appealing for cash donations to strengthen its response,'' national fundraising coordinator Major Robbie Ross said.

"New Zealanders are reeling from the disaster that struck Christchurch this weekend. Not since the 1930s have we experienced an earthquake as severe and it is important that we do everything we can to help.''

"People will be in shock, some have lost possessions and housing, and many will need food and comfort. We are asking New Zealanders to contribute to The Salvation Army's Canterbury Earthquake Appeal to bring emergency relief to the people of Christchurch and affected rural areas.''

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To donate to The Salvation Army 'Canterbury Earthquake Appeal, Freephone 0800 53 00 00

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Ambulances flat out

Ambulances are flat out across the city attending to hundreds of personal medical alarms activated during the quake.

Pegasus Health chairman Martin Seers said ambulance staff were checking the alarms, which are activated when a button hanging round the neck is pressed, to see if they were genuine medical emergencies.

"We need to be clear about whether these people are OK. Some of those will be: 'I have broken my leg', but some will be: 'I pressed my button because that was pretty scary,'' he said.

Civil Defence emergency

Civil Defence has activated its emergency management centres throughout Canterbury in the wake of this morning's massive earthquake.

Civil Defence is concerned that power is expected to be off in Christchurch for much of today, and that cellphone towers currently running on batteries would fail in about an hour, severing communication links.

There is also a looming problem of flooding in New Brighton and Brooklands because storm and sewage pipes under the road have broken.

Residents have been advised to prepare to leave their homes _ but not evacuate yet.

Prime Minister John Key and Civil Defence Minister John Carter will hold a crisis meeting with civil defence officials in the next hour to decide on whether to declare a state of emergency.

One of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history struck Christchurch and the South Island this morning.

The massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit before dawn, causing widespread damage and cutting power.

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Have you been affected by this morning's earthquake? Comment or email us on reporters@press.co.nz with your stories and pictures.

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The quake was centred 30km west of Christchurch and 33m underground. It hit at 4.35am and there have been many reports of damage.

It was felt widely across the South Island, including Christchurch and Timaru, and there have also been reports of the quake being felt as far as Wellington.

Major aftershocks are still continuing. The biggest was felt just before 8am.

People seriously injured

A Christchurch Hospital spokeswoman said a man in his 50s was in a serious condition in the intensive care unit after being hit by a falling chimney.

Another man in his 50s had serious injuries after being cut by glass during the earthquake.

The spokeswoman said a number of people had also been to the hospital with minor injuries, "mainly cuts and bruises but some broken bones".

She said people should not visit Christchurch Hospital unless they needed medical attention for serious injuries.
Minor injuries could be treated at the 24 Hour After Hours Surgery in Bealey Ave and Moorhouse Medical Centre.

State highways closed

There have been two state highway closures after this morning's major earthquake near Christchurch.

But the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said Canterbury's state highways had "held up well".

State Highway 77 between Methven and Windwhistle and Mid Canterbury is closed, as is the Chaney's Road on-ramp to State Highway 1 north of Christchurch.

There are also problems on State Highway 75 from Taipapu to Kaituna in the Banks Peninsula area near Christchurch.

Signposted detours are available for closed highways.

NZTA Canterbury state highways operations manager Peter Connors said motorists should limit trips to essential travel and extreme caution should be exercised throughout the area until a full assessment had been completed.

He said slips and drop outs in the road surface, as well as some earth movement around bridge abutments, were major problems.

"Checks of key state highway structures in the region show that overall they have stood up to this quake remarkably well. Key bridges on the State Highway 1 over the Ashburton and Rakaia Rivers to the south of Christchurch and across the Waimakariri River north of Christchurch are operational."

Connors said contractors were removing humps in the road on State Highways 71 and 74.

Airport, rail lines closed

Christchurch Airport has just reopened following the quake but there are major delays.

Air traffic at Christchurch Airport was suspended as it is assessed for damage.

The rail network in the South Island has also been shut down while it is inspected for damage.

Civil Defence activates emergency management centres

Civil Defence said this morning it had activated its emergency management centres in Selwyn, Timaru, Waimakariri, and Hurunui.

"There are power outages across the districts. Residents are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel while damage to buildings and infrastructure is assessed and necessary repairs are made,'' a spokesman said.

Civil Defence is asking residents in those areas not to use their cellphones unless for emergencies.

Civil Defence Minister John Carter described the situation as a ''significant disaster''.

Plans were in place to get milk tankers full of water into the city but the water was likely to be rationed, he said.

Carter said many people were suffering from shock but he urged the public not to flood the hospital with minor injuries. They should instead go to their local 24-hour medical centres.

''The most important thing we can tell anybody at the moment is please don't panic,'' he said.

The army had been informed and was ready to mobilise if needed.

Hospitals operating normally

All Christchurch hospitals are operating and there have been no major injuries reported. However, authorities are urging the public not to come into the hospital except in an emergency.

A  hospital spokeswoman said night staff were staying on at work.

Christchurch police report widespread power outages throughout the city.

Major damage reported

Damage is widespread in the historic harbour town of Lyttelton. The Holy Trinity church built in the 1800s has suffered extensive cracking and the façade of the nearby Empire Hotel has crumbled. The Harbourlight theatre is also damaged.

The town remained closed for business this morning and the Saturday market farmers market has been cancelled. However, power has been  restored.

Historic Godley House has suffered very serious damage. Owner Richard Hawes said he thought he was going to die as he was on the second floor of the 130-year-old homestead and when it "wobbled like a jelly''. The building now has cracks from the foundation upwards with many windows out and a large hole in a wall.

The Timeball station in Lyttelton had a chimney come through one of the ceilings, Press reporter Martin Van Beynen said.

''It has escaped major damage but one of its central chimneys has come down and smashed through one of the chimneys in the room,'' he said.

Press reporters say there has been widespread damage to buildings on the corner of Edgeware Road and Barbados Steet, with rubble lying on the road and properties badly damaged. Power lines are also down on the footpath in the area.

They also report partial blockage in Litchfield St because of damage.

There are cars damaged in Madras St and bridges in Brighton and South Brighton are also damaged, inspector Inspector Malcolm Johnston said power is out around the city and wide spread building damage is being reported.

Christchurch's Avonside Drive has been seriously damaged. The street has been ripped apart and there have been reports of one house lifted off its foundation. It's garage has also collapsed. The residents are understood to be out of town.

The Christchurch suburb of Sydenham has also been hit hard. Many older buildings have been demolished and police cordons are around some of the shops.

Power could be off for much of the day

Power is expected to remain off in parts of Christchurch for much of today.

Orion CEO Roger Sutton said he expected power to be restored to 90 per cent of the city by nightfall. He said the central business district may still not have power tonight.

 "We don't want to reliven buildings where there has been significant damage. We need to understand the nature if the danage before we reliven the buildings,'' he said.

Sutton said they would not be able to assess the power loss in rural areas until mid morning. He said power had been lost in areas north to the Waimakariri and south to the Rakaia.

Cellphone towers in Christchurch were currently operating on battery power but this was expected to fail by 9.30am.

Size of earthquake recalibrated to 7.2

GNS spokesman said the size of the earthquake had now been recalibrated down from 7.4 to 7.2, and was centred at Kirwee. He said aftershocks could go on for weeks.


Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said City Care staff were trying to assess damage and clear roads where they could.

Extra staff were manning a phone line for the public to call in reports of damage 03-941 8999.

He urged households to "take sensible precautions'' such as preserving water by not flushing toilets.

Police are investigating reports of looting in Colombo St in central Christchurch.

Southern communications centre inspector John Doherty said police had been told about the looting earlier this morning and had dispatched teams to investigate.

He was yet to get a report back.

Additional police staff had been sent out to patrol the city streets.

Wainoni Pak n Save has opened despite power outtages and its ailes are crammed with shoppers looking for emergency supplies in the dark.

Shoppers are loading up with tinned food and drinks.

The Wainoni supermarket manager, who did not want to be named, said shoppers had cleared the shelves of water soon after it opened at 8am.

Most were buying bread, milk, juice, bananas and potatoes.

Back-up generators were powering the tills but were not able to keep the lights or freezers going.

Supermarkets plan to reopen tonight

The majority of Christchurch supermarkets should be open by this evening.

Foodstuffs chief executive Steve Anderson said he hoped all the company'sChristchurch stores would be open tonight, but there were some "major challenges'' to overcome.

Foodstuffs owns Pak n Save and New World supermarkets.

"Some stores are open and some are not. The key determinant is the power,'' said Anderson.

"There are some major challenges and we are doing our utmost to get them open again.''

Anderson said a lot of product had fallen on the floor at the distribution centres, but there were no injuries or major damage.

Eye witness accounts

Christchurch resident Colleen Simpson said everyone was out in the street in their pyjamas looking scared and worried. There was no power and the mobile network was failing.

"Oh my God. There is a row of shops completely demolished right in front of me," she said.

Simpson and her young family were heading to her sister's house, where there was still power, so everyone could be together.

Press editor and Sumner resident Andrew Holden said chimney builders would be busy in Sumner, with brick chimnies either collapsed or badly shaken.

Cave Rock Bed and Breakfast appeared to have been hardest hit with a portion of the main roof collapsed into an upstairs bedroom.

There was no apparent damage to the main cliff face at either Whitewash Head or Redcliffs.

Kevin O'Hanlon, from Mairehau in Christchurch, said it was unbelievable.

"Just unbelievable. I was awake to go to work and then just heard this massive noise and, boom, it was like the house got hit. It just started shaking. I've never felt anything like it."

In Mid Canterbury, near Mt Hutt, a major 1912 homestead has been utterly destroyed.  

William Cottrell, of Glenroy, said his house, Gunyah, had been utterly destroyed.  

"You can drive a car through the hole in our roof.''

"Two chimneys fell and demolished the antique 2-poster bed we were in. We were so lucky.''

He said his leg had been crushed under some bricks. "But I can't believe I'm alive.''

The mountain of bricks then crashed through the bedroom floor into the dining room below.

He said the lodge had six guests, who had all left, as there was no power.

Hororata resident Bryan Hall said his home had also lost a chimney and furniture had broken. "There are boooks just everywhere and all the pictures are at peculiar angles.

However, he had managed to light a log fire to boil a kettle for some coffee,

Christchurch Press chief reporter Kamala Hayman said power was out in many southern suburbs.

"The first shake tipped books and glasses off our shelves and we are still getting sizeable aftershocks."

Ryan Shaw, in Christchurch, said "TV fallen off cabinet, books, pot plants everywhere and I'm very shaken."

St Albans woman Marsha Witehira narrowly escaped injury when a friend pulled her from her bed as the wall of her house collapsed.

Witehira was asleep in her bed at the time of the earthquake, while a friend had been sleeping in the lounge.
She said her friend pulled her from the bed as the side of her house started to collapse.

"He saved my life, no doubt about it...if I had been there, I would have smashed my head."

Darfield resident Meg Morten said the earthquake was preceded by a ''huge noise'' that jolted her from her sleep.

''I just heard this huge bang and realised it was an earthquake, so I was out of bed and into a doorway pretty much on autopilot,'' she said.

''It was the biggest earthquake I had ever felt, and we thought maybe this was going to be the really big earthquake. It was pretty frightening.''

There were reports of chimney collapses in Darfield, but no major damage.

Morten was surprised her own home remained intact.

''We could hear glass, but nothing fell off the walls. It's absolutely amazing, given the size of the quake.

''Now it's daylight, people will be getting out and having a look.''

The earthquake appeared to not to have disturbed farm stock, she said.

''Looking out the window, there's lambs and ewes in the paddock and they're just pottering along.

''The cats certainly haven't come back though.''

Morten said aftershocks were still ''rumbling''.

Sir Miles Warren's 150-year-old homestead Ohinetahi at Governor's Bay has been badly damaged. Sir Miles said there was "a tremendous noise'' as stonework smashed down onto the roof but no one was injured.

A 50-metre slip has partially blocked the road between Teddington and Diamond Harbour.

Shelley Richard, a resident of Culver Place and Holderstone Drive, in Dallington, said her entire house had shifted off its foundations. A 5cm gap was now visible between the house and the concrete foundations.

Richard said she could not open any doors inside the house or her garden gate and said it was too dangerous to return home.

She had tried repeatedly to call her insurance firm but had not been able to get through.

Richard said she had picked up her mum from Kate Sheppard rest because it had been closed following the quake.

Residents near Brighton and Dallington were using buckets to get river water for  flushing toilets. Others were standing outside a closed supermarket where they had hoped to buy water.

The water swirling around the roads smelled of sewage.

Press arts editor Christopher Moore said he was thrown out of bed by the shake. Moore, who lives in Diamond Harbour, said every piece of crockery was broken and book thrown to the floor. A heavy, carved Victorian wall clock, had swung about a foot in each direction and a heavy, enamel Kent fire was ejected half way across the bedroom floor.

Moore said it felt "much worse''  than the Inangahua earthquake of 1968 - also a magnitude 7.1. " It was savage, terrifying, horrible.

"But everybody is OK, and that's the main thing.''

Gordon Lewis reckons the Dallington house he and wife Lyndell have lived in since 1978 is "history".

The Dallington Terrace, roughcast on weatherboard  house, which is about 70 years old, suffered "extensive" damage in this morning's quake, he said.

The driveway was "demolished" by cracking, sand volcanoes had erupted in the yard and the swimming pool had popped out of the ground.

The chimney broke off and fell onto their neighbour's property.

The only unaffected building is the garage.

"It's gone under the house and broken the foundations," Lewis said.

"Our place has taken the major hit in the neighbourhood.

"I'd say this house is history."

He said this morning's earthquake felt like it went for a minute and a half.

"It didn't take me long to get out of out of bed and get under the doorway."

The Lewises had spent a "mint" refurbishing the house.

"It's absolutely devastated. I just don't know where to start."

However he said they would probably stay the night in the house.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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