Christchurch earthquake: CBD cordons relaxed

Sunday, March 6: Civil Defence has temporarily lifted the CBD cordon in some areas at 8am this morning.

The CBD has been divided into five zones.

Zones 1-4 all surround the central red no go zone. Zones are numbered in priority order.

Each zone will be opened in a phased approach allowing residents and business owners six hours to inspect and secure their properties, ahead of the cordon being lifted. From the opening of a zone, City Care-coordinated building teams and lock smiths will be available to assist.

Any person attempting to visit the zones must carry identification, police said.

A series of sizable aftershocks rattled the city last night, including a 4.8 magnitude jolt that struck at 7.43pm, 11km deep and within 5km of Lyttelton. It was followed by a series of six smaller shocks though to 11pm.

A magnitude 3 aftershock hit at 712am this morning, 5km deep and within 5km of Lyttelton, according to Geonet's report.

The new zones (click to zoom):


Saturday, March 5: At 1am this morning, rescue workers cleared the Christchurch Cathedral.

No bodies were found.

Based on initial eye witness reports, authorities had feared that up to 21 people had been in the cathedral's spire at the time of its February 22 collapse.

Friday: Thee official death toll from the Christchurch quake has been lifted to 163 as the rescue operation shits to a recovery focus. The website has been set up to keep people informed.

Thursday 4.15pm: The search for survivors from the Christchurch earthquake has shifted its focus from rescue to recovery of bodies, Civil Defence head John Hamilton said this afternoon.

Families of the quake victims are being briefed on the shift in operational focus, nine days after the February 22 earthquake.

''We now face the reality that there is no chance that anyone could have survived this long, and efforts have to shift to the recovery of loved ones and their return to their families,'' Mr Hamilton said.

Thursday 11.30am: Police have confirmed that the death toll has risen to 161 with the addition of two overseas casualties, two young men from Israel. 

Thursday 7 am:  Canterbury police district commander Superintendent Dave Cliff said one more death was confirmed yesterday, bringing the total to 160.

Wednesday 7am: The official death toll remains at 155 though three more bodies were recovered overnight from the Pyne Gould building.

Estimates of the total fatalities remain at around 240. Only eight names of identified bodies have been released so far but another 12 are expected to be known today.

Police made at least three arrests overnight for breaches of the cordon, possession of stolen goods and illegal entry of a commercial property.

One of the city’s hotels, the Millennium, has been cleared for use once the CBD cordon has been lifted. Another, the Copthorne on Victoria Square, has been cleared for restricted use while the Copthorne in Durham St is likely to be demolished.

Search and rescue teams report the leaning 26-storey Hotel Grand Chancellor cannot be inspected above the fifth level due to lack of access. That building is being stabilised with concrete around its ground level structures ahead of its likely demolition.

Christchurch motorists have been spared the latest petrol and diesel price rise increase. Oil companies said they would hold prices in the city or for the whole South Island.

The weather today is expected to be hot and windy, with people advised to wear face masks, which are already being used by rescue teams for protection against dust.

Tuesday 6pm: The official death toll has risen to 155.

Tuesday 1pm: Police say the death toll in the Christchurch earthquake is expected to reach 240. The confirmed toll is currently 154 but this is expected to increase further.

Superintendent Dave Cliff said this morning: "The number is fluctuating, but the figure of around 240 is solidying.

"I think we need to start considering the figure of around 240, but that is not locked in stone."

Tuesday 8am: Official death toll rises to 154 with no further survivors found overnight.

Rescue teams are now working only in daylight hours.

The Prime Minister and Mrs Key are travelling to Christchurch for the two minutes of slience at 12.51pm.

More than 70 homes were evacuated in Redcliffs and Cashmere overnight because of rock and earth slide dangers.

Aftershocks continue with one of 3.9 magnitude just before 11pm.

As many as 100,000 homes need repair and 10,000 will have to be rebuilt according to early estimates, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said.

Residents and business owners would have to be patient as the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and private insurers swung into action to get assessments under way, Mr Brownlee said.

"Assessments on damage can take up to five hours on each property, so if you multiple that out across the numbers of properties that are involved, and divide that by 2000 hours for an average year's work, you start to see the enormity of what we are trying to deal with," he told NZPA.

"In many, many cases once an assessment has been done more damage has been found than was reported."

Fast financial settlements would not be in the interest of homeowners, Mr Brownlee said.

"People get impatient but I think the fact we have had another event of considerable size that's done even worse damage (than the September quake) shows that you can't rush these things and you are just a complete fool if you delude yourself that you can."

All land would again need to be assessed as was done after the September quake, he said.

Initial "sweeping observations" were being made about the land in different areas but that would be followed up by detailed analysis.

"Once again you have to go property by property."

All roads would also have to be checked and even sections that looked OK could have scrambled piping underneath.

Housing people in the meantime would be a challenge. If possible residents should stay at home.

"(Houses) may not look pretty but if they are safe to occupy and there are services on that's the best option for people."

The Government was looking at helping with temporary accommodation on site, such as caravans, but that would not suit some people, especially those with large families.

"We are desperately trying to come up with some fast solutions around that temporary accommodation...modular dwelling units of some type."

The Housing Department and Housing New Zealand were looking at options.

Meanwhile Mr Brownlee said many heritage buildings would not be able to be saved. After the last quake the council had refused to allow some to be demolished.

"I am pretty determined that some of the nonsense that went on after the September 4 is not going to get in the road of the rebuild this time," he said.

"The fact is that if a heritage building is damaged it's structural integrity will be gone and it is either rebuilt to code or it comes down, in most cases it will come down."

Mr Brownlee expected "every effort" would be made to save buildings in the heritage precinct and one or two other buildings would be focussed on but all would be strengthened.

"The fact is that a number of people did die while they were working on buildings they were trying to preserve so I am just saying life is more important and so is the future of the city, we must have a reputation in the future of being a city that has very safe buildings following this event.

"That has to be the heritage that we leave future generations."

Monday: Official death toll rises to 148. No further survivors found overnight as rescue teams continued to search collapsed buildings in the cordoned-off CBD. 50,000 workers in the CBD will not return to their jobs today. Cabinet meeting will decide on aid package to businesses affected by CBD closure. HMNZS Canterbury travels to Wellington to reload with provisions and heavy eqyupment. It is expected back in Lyttelton tonight. Power still off in nearly 20% of homes and water cut off to 50%. All city schools remain closed but most regional schools around the city will be open.

A vigil will be held at Parliament tomorrow to mark one week since the Christchurch earthquake struck.The vigil would be held on the front steps from 12.30pm.Among those attending would be Governor-General Anand Satyanand his wife, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, church and faith representatives, Parliamentarians and members of the diplomatic corps.The public would be able to gather on the forecourt and grounds.Two minutes' silence would be held 12.51pm during the service.The bells of the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul would ring half-muffled for 10 minutes from 12.56pm.

Sunday: The official death toll stands at 145 today although with 200 people still missing, it is expected to rise. Work continues on erecting power lines and getting water supplies back to homes. Global earthquake fund appeal launched. Rents suspended for affected state house tenants.

Saturday 6pm: The official death toll has risen to 145 and fears are held for 200 people still missing.

Saturday 10am: Police say official confirmed dead has risen to 123 with 200 still missing and feared dead. No survivors have been found since Wednesday.

Rescue teams are still at the CTV and Pyne Gould buildings, where most deaths occurred, as well as Christchurch Cathdedral, where up to 30 tourists are thought to have perished.

A total of 329 people spent the night in welfare centres but that number is dropping.

Lines company Orion says power has been restored to 80% of homes and damage in some suburbs such as Sumner is not as bad as feared.

Water supplies and sewerage remain main problems with many suburbs being supplied with water tankers and two army desalination plants at New Brighton.

Nearly two-thirds of the 1000 buildings checked in the cordoned-off CBD have been deemed to be safe with 17% safe to access but 20-25% have been ruled unsafe.

In the suburbs, 341 houses had also been red-stickered and evacuated while another 500 had only limited access.

Friday 1:20pm: Damage to the roading network from Tuesday’s earthquake is estimated to be in the billions, Fulton Hogan said in a statement.

Managing director Nick Miller said following detailed inspections “we estimate that the damage to the roading and surface network is in the billions of dollars and many more times more than the damage caused on September 4.”

He said the primary focus at the moment was on searching for the missing, but “this will soon move to the wider community and the enormous amount of infrastructure work that will be required to rebuild Christchurch.”

11.00am: Superintendent Dave Cliff has announced the death toll has risen to 113.

10am: The government and statistics department have cancelled the New Zealand census which was to have taken place next week. Chief Statistician Geoff Bascand announced that next week's count would not take place. He said he understood the census had also been cancelled in 1941 during the war.

Mr Bascand said he acknowledges the decision will have consequences for people who use the census data in their work.

“We will now investigate the feasibility of alternative options,” Mr Bascand said.

9.30am: The Reserve Bank has posted on its website a map of operational bank ATM machines

The information has been put together from other sources of publicly available information, and may be subject to change from time to time. Please check with your bank’s website as power and access can affect ATM operations.

FRIDAY 7.00am: Police and civil defence authorities have lifted the official death to 103 victims, with grave fears held for a further 228 missing. No survivors have been found for 35 hours.

The rescue effort has been boosted with teams arriving from overseas, including a large contingent from the US and one from China. This will bring the total involved to 600. A further 300 police from Australia are due this afternoon.

Thousands of residents have left Christchurch and 450 people spent the night in welfare centres. Water and power is gradually being restored to the city, with 50% of homes now having water and 75% power. The sewerage system is still being repaired.

Residents from several streets in Sumner and Redcliffs have been evacuated because of danger to houses from rock slides. 

Finding survivors in collapsed buildings is becoming less and less likely, Civil Defence Minister John Carter says. Overnight five bodies were recovered from the CBD.

"The last live rescue we had reported was Wednesday (about 3pm). We are still hopeful of course that there still may be people rescued but it's getting and less likely," Mr Carter told reporters this morning.

Teams were continuing grid searches of buildings in the CBD but were also checking places such as alleyway where workers would have been going back and forth to lunch.Mr Carter said rescuers suspected that there may be people under the rubble.

THURSDAY 6.05pm: Police superintendent Dave Cliff announced a short list of the deceased, including two babies, at a press conference but explained other names were not available yet. He said there are 226 people reported missing about whom there are grave concerns. 

"We also need to be prepared that number may grow as there may be people from overseas who have not been reported to us," he said.

The majority of the 98 confirmed dead are expected to be among the 226 reported as missing. He said they needed to be sure of identity before releasing names.

The coroner told the media they were going through a systematic process of identifying the bodies before releasing them back to their families.

“That process isn’t going to happen in a hurry, we need to be accurate. The bodies are in a safe place and are.

“I’m a mum and a grandma as well as a coroner and we will take care of those bodies. There is someone with them all the time,” she said.

THURSDAY 5.40pm: Prime Minister John Key has announced the death toll has reached 98 and that grave concerns are held for 226 missing people. He said there are no survivors in the CTV building.


THURSDAY 4.30pm: Police have delayed the naming of the 238 missing people, originally expected around 4pm, until later this evening. An announcement may be made around 6pm.

The official death toll remains at 76, with greatest fears centring on the CTV building, where up to 120 were trapped inside.

3.30pm: The Government has welcomed offers of help from New Zealand’s business community to the Christchurch earthquake recovery effort.

Finance Minister Bill English joined Prime Minister John Key on a conference call with the chief executives of Business New Zealand’s major companies group – representing most of New Zealand’s largest businesses - this afternoon.

“The Government is already mounting a huge rescue and recovery effort in Canterbury and we welcome the support and constructive ideas from the business leaders," Mr English said.

“Many of their companies have offices and staff in Christchurch and they are already providing considerable assistance to people throughout the city.

“Businesses have already stepped up with donations and offers of support for employees. The Government deeply appreciates the extra offers of help we’re now getting from many companies to help the people and businesses of Christchurch.


THURSDAY 1.06pm: Police minister Judith Collins says 76 bodies are now in the morgue, including one just recovered from the Pyne Gould Corporation building.

The death toll is expected to rise.

The number on the missing persons list now stands at 238, Canterbury District Commander Superintendent Dave Cliff said.

Superintendent Cliff said an officer on the scene estimated that between 16 and 22 people were killed when the Christchurch Cathedral's spire collapsed.

Estimates of the number of people trapped inside the collapsed CTV building vary between the late 60s and 120.

Police expect to release a list of names of people they are "significantly concerned about" at around 4pm.

Some of the names of the dead will also be released at that time.

THURSDAY 11.40am: Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has been relieved of his other portfolios and will focus solely on the earthquake, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Mr Brownlee has been in charge of the government’s earthquake recovery effort since the first quake hit Canterbury in September last year.

Mr Key said today Mr Brownlee will continue to be Earthquake Recovery Minister and Maurice Williamson has been appointed Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery.

Mr Brownlee’s other portfolios have been reallocated to other members of Cabinet.

“Simon Power will be the Acting Leader of the House. David Carter will be the Acting Minister for Economic Development and Hekia Parata will be the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources,” Mr Key said.

“As we move forward after Tuesday’s earthquake, the people of Christchurch and its surrounding areas can be certain that the Government is firmly focused on getting their city back on its feet.”

Mr Key also said some of the victims would be named by police today.

THURSDAY 11.28pm: The Pyne Gould Corporation building operation has been moved from a rescue to a recovery effort. Read NBR's full report here.

THURSDAY 9.35am: Names of people killed in Tuesday's Christchurch earthquake are likely to start being released soon, Prime Minister John Key says.

Police are collating various missing person lists and checking them for accuracy.Mr Key said once next of kin were notified names should start being released. Some families had already been told and Mr Key would talk to police about getting those names out.

"We will raise that issue with them this morning," he told reporters."Where it's gone through the logical process and next of kin have been advised then its important that other people are informed because ... it's also friends and I myself have got one or two people that might be missing and I would personally would like to know the status of them."Mr Key accepted there was an accuracy issue if people did not know someone was dead and reported them missing.

"That's the challenge of the issue."Mr Key said police did not yet know the number of missing people."We know it's a sizeable number, the problem with missing numbers is we don't know the starting point of who was in the building.

"It was very difficult establishing international losses."My guess is at the end or today or by the end of tomorrow we will be in a much stronger position to give you much firmer numbers of how many people are likely to have lost their lives.

THURSDAY 8.55am: An active search is underway in Christchurch CBD where rescuers have heard signs of life in the rubble. A search and rescue spokesman told media signs of life had been heard in the last 15 minutes. "We're very much in active rescue phase, a search and rescue spokesperson said. "We’re still in a window where we can save lives."

“We’ve just had this indication, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t” find survivors."

THURSDAY  7.00am Overnight developments: Rescue operation resumes at CTV building as threat of Grand Chancellor collapse eases; No further rescues overnight from collapsed buildings; Health dangers rise from sewage-polluted water and lack of power; 40% of homes still have no power; Cabinet to discuss financial package for business and employees; Crusaders-Hurricanes rugby match cancelled.

Rescuers are widening their search for survivors of Tuesday 6.3 magnitude quake to take in the whole of the city. So far the search has been focused on the CBD where the biggest number of trapped and injured have been reported. Civil Defence Minister John Carter said this morning the New Zealand and Australian rescue teams had now been boosted by the arrival of experts from the UK, United States, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan. Each team consisted of about 70 personnel.

Mr Carter said there were four CBD buildings where people were believed to be alive.The Japanese team was focusing on the Canterbury TV building, where up to 100 people were feared lost. Fifteen CTV staff, four Filipino nurses and a number of Japanese students from a foreign language school that operated in the building are believed to be among those inside the destroyed CTV building.That search was called off yesterday with authorities saying the site was too dangerous and no one was alive."(The search could resume) because now they have specialist equipment in there that allows them to secure the building and make it safe for search and rescue to enter," Mr Carter said.

4.30pm: Civil Defence has advised that the CTV building in which people are believed to be trapped was "not survivable". They said earlier reports of 15 survivors in the building were based on outdated information.

4.15pm: A 6.30pm curfew has been put in place in quake struck Christchurch's central business district and anyone found in the cordoned off CBD after this time tonight will be arrested. Police said they have already made several arrests for theft today.

3.30pm: Search and rescue teams could continue looking for survivors for a second night following yesterday's Christchurch earthquake, Civil Defence national controller David Coetzee says.

The death toll sits at 75, and hundreds more are reported missing.

Mr Coetzee said the search for survivors was not expected to be completed tonight. "It will be completed as these teams work through it. They will not stop until they go through it," he said.

The search and rescue teams are focusing on 10 buildings considered critical where people could be trapped inside.

The search may be painfully slow, he said, but "they have to find the people, locate them and then work out what is the best way to reach them".

The Government declared a national state of emergency this afternoon, and Civil Defence director John Hamilton was heading down to Christchurch to work with the local Civil Defence team.

Civil Defence Minister John Carter said the earthquake was huge task for the local authority, and would need the support of Civil Defence headquarters.

"We will be bringing in people from around the country who have Civil Defence expertise to work in there and work alongside the people of Canterbury, just to make sure that everything is giving them the help they need."

He could not say how long the state of emergency would last.

"It's really hard to know yet. We haven't got sufficient information to actually know yet what's happened exactly. It's too early."

Mr Coetzee said a national action plan would be developed, which was expected to be ready tomorrow.

1.45pm: Court buildings in Christchurch be closed for the rest of the week. There has been extensive damage to several Ministry of Justice premises and those that are undamaged are disrupted by access and power issues.

The Ministry will work with Police and Corrections to provide arrest courts as required. The High Court has been closed by order of the Chief High Court Judge. The District Court has been closed by order of the Executive Judge for Christchurch. Court fixtures scheduled this week for Timaru, Ashburton, Rangiora and Kaikoura will not now go ahead. Anyone summoned for jury service in Christchurch this week is not required to attend.

There is a 24-hour freephone number for anyone with questions or concerns relating to court matters, fines or any other Justice service - 0800 324 627.

1.15pm: Fire Commander Mike Hall said earlier reports of 15 people trapped alive in a pocket in the CTV building were incorrect and that search and rescue efforts were focusing on the PGC Building where a survivor was found this morning.

12.15pm: Lyttelton Port, after sustaining damage during yesterday’s  earthquake, has ceased operations until the scale of problems can be determined.

No staff sustained injuries during the quake, but until an engineering assessment is completed later today operations have been suspended.

The company said the key focus for the Port was to “where possible to recover elements of key services as quickly as possible to ensure food and all essential supplies can get in.”

A further announcement is expected at 5pm today.

Greenstone Energy said its fuel storage tanks at Lyttelton Port of Christchurch came through the quake in good shape but that it is diverting a fuel tanker to Timaru and will deliver fuel to Christchurch from there.

The company, which owns and operates Shell branded service stations, said 13 of its retail sites and four truck stops in the earthquake affected city were trading and it hoped to open more.

The company was working with emergency services to ensure fuel deliveries to generators and machinery being used in the rescue effort.

The company was also working with competitors to ensure supplies of fuel to the city.

Residents have been flocking to petrol stations to fill vehicles.

BP Oil New Zealand said many of its service stations in Christchurch were still closed but some were reopening after tanks and pipes were checked.

Initially fuel was held for emergency services but this restriction had been lifted.

12.05pm: Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean, himself from Christchurch, said his team was coping well with the heavy demands on the coronial system in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.

“We are working alongside Police to carry out our duties in the face of a dreadful death toll. Temporary facilities, such as refrigerated body storage, have been set up and arrangements made for the transportation of bodies to Auckland for post-mortems.

“Our contingency plans are in place and although we are managing well at the moment, we can call on additional facilities and personnel should they be needed.

“If necessary I will convene a Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Panel in case their expertise is required and will also continue to liaise with Police and Pathologists to ensure the deceased are handled safely, swiftly and with respect.

“While my thoughts are with all those affected, my main priority is making sure those lost in this terrible event are returned to their families as quickly as possible,” Judge MacLean says.

11.25am: Prime Minister John Key is to declare a national state of emergency. He spoke following an emergency cabinet meeting and repeated latest information on fatalities - 75 confirmed dead (of whom 55 had been identified). He said it was "quite possible" some of the fatalities were overseas visitors to New Zealand.

The Cabinet has signed off emergency spending powers to do whatever it takes to rescue people trapped in the rubble of the Christchurch earthquake.

11.10am: Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says 75 people are confirmed dead following yesterday's devastating earthquake. Police said there are 55 bodies in the morgue and a further 20 understood to be en route. At least 300 people are still missing.

Reports were also coming in that 15 people had been located alive inside the collapsed CTV building in central Christchurch, he said.

Sumner Rd has re-opened giving access to Lyttelton.

10am: Emergency cash grants will be made available for victims of yesterday's quake, mayor Bob Parker said.

"We know that some people just can't get money and money is what you need at the moment, in a number of cases, to keep your life ticking over," he said.

"We've taken steps there and we'll be updating ... with the location and time at which we will make those emergency funds available for special situations."

Mr Parker said he visited a site in the city this morning where it had been several hours since anyone had been pulled alive from the wreckage."But our approach is that there are people alive and still trapped in that rubble," he said."This morning all our effort is focused on finding our people and getting them out of those buildings."

Mr Parker earlier said people needed to steel themselves for more heartbreak as rescuers continued to bring people, alive and dead, out of buildings shattered in yesterday's earthquake.

Christchurch had just been fighting its way back from the 7.1 magnitude earthquake last September.

"We have gone backwards, six months of planning and work wiped out in a few seconds – we need to come to terms with that today, it's a huge blow to the city."

"We are getting people out alive so keep you hope up but it is going to be a hard day and I think as the news begins to unfold today we will have a clearer picture and it is not going to be a happy picture."

8.30am: Civil Defence is due to give a major situation report on Christchurch at 10:30am. Meanwhile, Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said rescue efforts this morning remained focused on saving what is estimated to be 100 people trapped in crushed buildings around the city.

"The approach is, people are alive and trapped in rubble, no matter how hopeless a site may appear."

Mr Parker said the number of people estimated to be trapped or dead could be conservative.

Mr Parker reiterated the devastation facing Christchurch residents this morning.

"In a matter of seconds, everything we have done has been wiped out. We're taken back to a place where we are worse than we are before."

7.30am: The cabinet will meet at 9.30am and consider declaring a national state of emergency. Parliament has been suspended for the rest of the week.

While the official death toll sits at 38 (the number of bodies identified), this is expected to rise dramatically. There have been some miraculous tales of survival but other reports are of bodies in the streets and survivors needing amputations to get them out of collapsed buildings.


ABOVE: Photos by Polar Bear Farm's Layton Duncan. 

UPDATE 6.00AM: Civil defence authorities have put the official death toll at 32 but say these are only identified bodies. Others have not yet been identified and unknown number of others are still trapped in city buildings.

Earlier, the death toll was put at 65 but pollice say 38 bodies are in the mortuary and dozens more litter the streets, trapped in cars and under rubble.

Search and rescue efforts overnight were concentrated on two collapsed buildings,CTV and Pyne Gould Corporation. Eight people were rescued alive from the Pyne building overnight and three from CTV, which housed an English language school for foreign students.

Meanwhile, rescue workers are going from building to building, systematically checking for survivors, focusing on buildings from they can hear noises or have received messages from survivors.

Authorities say they still have no information on how many people are missing. Among disruptions to essential services, water supplies to much of the city are cut while power has been restored to about 80% of homes and businesses. Christchurch Airport is operating but only open to emergency travel.

Many CBD businesses have been advised to close until the end of the week, while all schools have been closed until further notice. The CBD has been cordoned off and many streets are impassable due to obstructions and debris.

Thousands of tourists and residents who couldn't travel to their homes spent the night in welfare centres, including tents in Hagley Park originally set up for the Ellerslie Flower Show.

Tourists and other non-residents are being urged to leave the city and the Air Force has begun transporting people to Wellington. Air New Zealand is putting on extra flights, including a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, to Auckland and other destinations.

UPDATE 9.20pm: Mayor Bob Parker has told media at least 100 people were understood to still be trapped in the CBD but that it was not known how many people were missing in total.

"We have to understand that we've got tens of thousands of people waiting to hear news," Mr Parker said. He announced a quake free phone number of 0800 779 997 for those wanting news about family and friends.

"It's not going to be good news and we need to steel ourselves," he said.

He said the electricity companies were hoping to get some power restored overnight but said this was likely to be less than 50% of those currently without power.

"We have food coming in, we have additional support teams," he said, which would be searching for survivors overnight.

"But we have to be realistic.

"Tonight our focus is on rescue. Recovery is something we thing about once we've completed this first crucial rescue," Mr Parker said.

A cordon was set up around the central city which would be guarded by police and military overnight.

"It is very likely that the centre of our city will be shut down for a significant amount of time. It is not safe for people to come into it," Mr Parker said.

Asked about the safety of rescuers, he said this function must be left to the trained specialists.

"We are in the middle of a disaster on global terms," the mayor said.

A tent set up for the Ellerslie Flower Show were being used as an emergency shelter as rain set it.

More than 2000 had crammed into the tent before organisers started to turn people away.

BELOW: cars used as makeshift ambulances (via Rhys Taylor).

Update 8.40pm: Finance Minister Bill English has told media Cabinet has approved extra spending for Christchuch. He said 350 military personnel were in Christchurch with another couple of hundred preparing to head there.

Mr English reiterated that Christchurch hospital was operational and said other South Island hospitals had been cleared to accept casualties. Offers of assistance were coming in from around the globe.

Mr English said all schools in Christchurch would remain closed until further notice to assess for damange. He said three Navy ships were already in Lyttelton Harbour and a fourth was en route. Phone networks were still overloaded meaning texting was being encouraged rather than phone calls, except in emergencies.

"Thegovernment is willing to throw everything it can at a rescue effort where time is now going to be of the essence," Mr English said.

He said the official death toll remained at 65 although expectations were that would rise. He said Police couldn't yet say how many people were missing.

Some buildings were on fire, he said, making it extra important people leave the CBD.

Mr English said search and recovery would be dangerous with specialised people needing to go into weakened buildings.

"We're very grateful to the Austrtalian governmetn for sending people over" he said, adding the urban search and rescue team would be able to replace tired locals in the morning.

Mr English said cabinet would meet in the morning. He repeated Prime Minister John Key's assessment that "this could be New Zealand's darkest day".

Media at the Civil Defence bunker in Wellington were told foreign nationals and tourists were expected to be among the casualties.

As well as Australian personnel, search and rescue teams from the North Island were heading to the mainland.

A state of emergency has been declared for at least five days.

Update 8.20pm: Bill Fry from GNS Science says today's quake was from a different fault line than the September shake but could be considered and aftershock of that event. While several strong aftershocks were felt from today's 12.51pm quake, he said these should weaken.

Update 8pm: Christchurch mayor Bob Parker says the death toll could rise dramatically, possible to double the current 65 confirmed deaths. He told residents they should be as calm as possible and should stay at home as emergency workers continued their search and resuce operations through the night.

UPDATE 7.05pm: Mayor Bob Parker said residents should prepare for a night without power. The current focus is solely on rescue and recovery rather than restoring services, the mayor said. Some patients at Christchurch Hospital are being evacuated to free up hospital beds. 

The mayor warned that the death toll could double.

Residents have been told not to go to work, or school, for at least three days.

The government has set up a toll-free help line for emergency and assistance queries: 0800 779 997.

Civil Defence is constantly updating information about services on its website at Work will continue throughout the night to search for survivors and those trapped. 200 people are believed to be missing.

BELOW: Tourists prepare to send the night in an emergency shelter (via Rhys Taylor).

UPDATE 6.24pm: Prime Minister John Key has told media the death toll is now at least 65.

Many were pronounced dead upon arrival at Christchurch Hospital.

The death toll could rise considerably, Civil Defence chief John Hamilton warned.

"The city has been wrecked," Mr Key said.

The worst damage is concentrated around the CBD.

DHBs around the country have been told to go on stand-by, and non-emergency surgery cancelled. 

Mayor Bob Parker said many more casaulties were expected, including around three major building collapses, the four-story Pyne Gould Corporation headquarters, the Christchurch Cathedral and the Cashell Mall. 

Rockfall on a house in Sumner (via GavB).

UPDATE 6.06pm: Civil Defence has confirmed at least 17 are dead following the massive quake that struck Christchurch at 12.51pm.

Mayor Bob Parker and Civil Defence chief John Hamilton have warned that more casaulties can be expected.

The 6.3 magnitude quake struck 5km deep and 10km southeast of the city around the Lyttelton area – closer and shallower than the 7.1 jolt that hit the city on September 4.

The quake was felt as far away as Dunedin and Queenstown. Christchurch Airport has been closed and the hospital was evacuated but has since been reopened. Several cars have been completely crushed by falling debris. Emergency services are trying to extract people from rubble. There are unconfirmed reports of people trapped in buildings - including the collapsed, four-story Pyne Gould building. 

See below for constant updates.

ABOVE: The four-story Pyne Gould building completely collapsed. At least 30 people are still trapped inside. Authories have confirmed multiple fatalities.

BELOW: TV camers catch the inside of Christchurch Cathedral. Several people are though to have been inside at the time of the quake. Eyewitnesses have also reported casualties at Cashell Mall.


5.58pm: THEN AND NOW: Christchurch entrepreneur Ben Kepes' building was yellow carded after the September 4 quake, though by external appearances, and an initial engineer's report, it looked sound. This afternoon, there's no doubt it's totaled.

5.39pm: Prime Minister John Key has landed in Christchurch and is heading for Civil Defence Headquarters. Mr Key said he had spoken to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who had offered assistance.

A helicopter fills a monsoon bucket from the Avon river (via Laura Campbell).

BELOW: An impassable street in Burwood (via Deon Swiggs).

4.40pm: NBR Managing Editor Todd Scott talks by phone with the publication's Christchurch correspondent, Chris Hutching. (Please note this audio is hosted on SoundCloud and requires the latest version of the free Flash Player.)

Part 1 of the interview with Chris Hutching in Christchurch

Part 2 of the interview with Chris Hutching in Christchurch

Part 3 of the interview with Chris Hutching in Christchurch

Part 4 of the interview with Chris Hutching in Christchurch

4.35pm: NBR's Chris Hutching has ordered off a CBD site by police who say dead bodies have been found. (See 1.30pm and 3.30pm updated for more eye witness accounts by Mr Hutching).

Via @polarbearfarm.

ABOVE: Looking North down Manchester Street, outside the Civic. BELOW: Manchester Street and Worcester Street.  (Via @polarbearfarm). 

4.30pm: Update from Corrections Department. No damage has been reported at any of Christchurch's prisons, all of which are on the southwestern outskirts of the city. At Christchurch men's, women's and sex offenders' prisons, the prisoners are safe and the public has nothing to fear.

An update on the state of Christchurch courts – near the centre of the city,was expected before 5 pm. A High Court jury trial began this morning but it was not clear if the courts were in use when the quake hit shortly before 1pm ... The main Christchurch high rise court building – housing both district and high courts – is across the road from the old Provincial Chambers,severely damaged by the quake.

Poplar Street Via @polarbearfarm.

3.45pmKiwirail's TranzAlpine has been stopped at Greymouth and the return service has been cancelled. There are 231 passengers on board and Kiwi Rail is sourcing alternative accommodation for them as the state of the road and track is unknown. TranzCoastal has been stopped at Picton with approximately 163 passengers. Again the service to Christchurch has been cancelled until the state of the track can be confirmed. Arrangements are being made for these passengers as well.  TranzAlpine and TranzCoastal services will not be running tomorrow.

Interislander services across Cook Strait are still operating as normal, although Civil Defence has asked people not to travel to Christchurch.

Dust clouds in the city centre (via Chalotte Bellis).

A coal train derailed at Heathcote with seven wagons affected but still upright. There were no injuries, and the train driver reported cracks in the Martindale Bridge, so the police could stop traffic.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said initial track inspections had begun.

Damage to track include: buckles in the Addington area, buckles between Belfast and Rangiora and a slip on the city side of the Lyttelton Tunnel.

Water forced up throught the ground by the quake strands a car (via Laura Campbell).

3.40pm: Christchurch Hospital is back in action having earlier been evacuated. Reports are also coming through of an air ambulance from Christchurch landing in Auckland.

3.20pm: Christchurch Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdaledescribed this afternoon’s 6.3 magnitude quake as the “worst end of a disaster.” The central city is understood to be the worst affected area. “The central city has taken such a hit it will be very difficult to comeback from,” Mr Lonsdale said.

3pm: NBR Christchurch reporter Chris Hutching, whose wife and family are safe, is scouring central Christchurch on his bicycle ... He told the newsroom this:

"Mate, this is chaos ... it's incredible ... I'm in the middle of town now ... This time people have been killed ... I have been talking to a couple of eyewitnesses ... Latimer Square is full of people who have been evacuated out, all very upset. One woman was saying how Cashel Mall had collapsed and she thought there were dead people there ... I have just been ordered off the scene of one collapsed building where the police told me there were dead people underneath ... Police got very upset when I started taking photos of this building ... they ran over and said here was a dead person under there ... There is a fire in a building at the corner of Armagh and Hereford Sts and they have helicopters going over with monsoon buckets ... there are huge grounds and police everywhere ... I can't see the cathedral but the Hotel Grand Chancellor, a 24 level building completed in 1990 – one corner of it appears to have collapsed ... It just looks bent. It's one of the tallest buildings in Christchurch. It willt will have to come down ... Going around, any brick building that survived the last one is rooted ... Walls have fallen out, you can look right into the rooms ... This is more devastating ... It is incredible ..."

Twitpic via Laura Campbell.

UPDATE 2.38pm: Christchurch mayor Bob Parker told One News that he was thrown across a council room by the initial jolt, which injured his leg.

Mr Parker said people should prepare themselves for bad news.

Police say multiple fatalities have been reported at several locations in the central city, including two buses crushed by falling buildings. A doctor and emergency services are attending. However, no casualties have been confirmed so far.

UPDATE 2.22pm: GeoNet is reporting more aftershocks hitting Christchurch. One just after 1.21pm was reported as magnitude 4.5, 10km east of Diamond Harbour, 20km east of Lyttelton and 20km south-east of Christchurch. A second, 4.4 magnitude, was recorded at 1.46pm. They are expected to continue.

GeoNet said the shaking intensity in the city was much greater for today's earthquake than the magnitude 7.1 earthquake from last September, or any of the aftershocks. The highest shaking was recorded at Pages Road Pumping Station at 188 %g, with readings of 127 %g at Heathcote Valley Primary School and 107 %g at Hulverstone Road Pumping Station. This was due to the proximity of the epicentre to the city and the shallow depth.

An emergency centre has been set up in the Christchurch Art Gallery. Christchurch Hospital has been evacuated and the airport closed.

UPDATE 2.18pm: Andy Knackstedt, spokesman for Transit New Zealand said the Lyttelton road tunnel was been closed, but the level of damage was unknown.

“It’s closed, that’s the only thing I know. We haven’t been able to get hold of any of our people down there,” he said.

Mr Knackstedt said further information would be released as it became available.

The Police urged people to clear out of the Christchurch CBD and said triage centers had been established at Latimer Square, Spotlight Mall and Sanitarium.

UPDATE 2.04pm: Prime Minister John Key has told Parliament that details are sketchy. There were no immediate reports of casaulties. Mr Key is flying to Christchurch following an emergency cabinet meeting at 3pm. Mr Key said details were extremely sketchy, and communications with Christchurch Civil Defence limited. People were being asked to evacuate the central city.

UPDATE 1.30pm: Christchurch has been hit by a 6.3 magnitude quake that struck at 12.51pm, 5km deep and 10km southeast of the city around the Lyttelton area - closer and shallower than the 7.1 jolt that hit the city September 4.

The quake was felt as far away as Dunedin and Queenstown.

Christchurch Airport has been closed, and the hospital is being evacuated.

Several cars have been completely crushed by falling debris. Emergency services are trying to extract people from rubble. There are unconfirmed reports of people trapped in buildings.

Christchurch Cathedral has been badly damaged. The facade of the Press' building has collapsed.

Christchurch Cathedral, via @TessWoolcock. BELOW - Before:

NBR reporter Chris Hutching has just phoned NBR's newsroom from his home in the central Christchurch suburb of St Albans.  "The roads are running with water. It's like rivers everywhere. The shakes are happening every few minutes. There are constant aftershocks."

"When the first earthquake happened, there was a bit of liquefaction on my front lawn. When I came home today water had erupted in seven places. It was gushing out of my front lawn like a river. My front lawn is covered in two feet of grey liquefaction silt. It's as if seven artesian wells have suddenly sprung up.

"My chimney survived the first quake. It's buggered now. Most of it's gone."

Power was off and people are being evacuated from the city centre, Mr Hutching said.

Cracks have appeared in the ground a foot wide and eight feet deep.

"People are distressed. People are running everywhere. Some of them are weeping. This is like something you could never imagine."

Some are walking around dazed, with blood on their faces.

"The main access roads are still all full of water.

"Cars are driving through like it's a flood area. All of this water has been pushed out of the ground. It's just incredible."

Mr Hutching said it was much worse than the magnitude 7.2 that struck September 4.

Reports of chaos and damage are streaming over social networks.

“Phone lines are all down, both cell and land line. Our building up there now has no stair well, people trapped on 10th floor," one person posted to Facebook.

Twitpic by @dyedredlaura.

UPDATE 1.15pm: NBR reporter Chris Hutching was driving when the quake hit. "This is a f*cking biggie," the clearly shocked reporter said. "There could be some deaths out of this."

"I was driving by the Avon River not far from centre of town and the whole world started to go f*cking gaga," he said. "I thought all four wheels had gone flat at once."

Mr Hutching said: "The roadway has opened up in three or four places – there are gaps a foot wide – and I'm f*looking down into the gap at the moment
about eight feet deep. You would not believe the look of this road – it's like someone had a table cloth and scrunched it all up."

Radio New Zealand is reporting the quake was centered south of Christchurch, at a shallow depth of 10km, and registered 6.3 on the Richter scale.

Christchurch businessman Ben Kepes told NBR: "It's carnage. Buildings have collapsed. Fire. Panic. Mayhem. The city is in gridlock"

Asked if the quake was worse than the September 4 jolt that struck the city, Mr Kepes replied "f***k yes".


Twitpic by @dyedredlaura.

NBR is receiving reports a large earthquake has hit the South Island.

An interview subject for an unrelated story told NBR from Christchurch at 12:55: "Holy shit, earthquake!" A rumbling sound was heard, and the connection was cut.  UPDATE: The NBR is pleased to report the subject of an interview cut off yesterday with the words “Holy shit! Earthquake!” has got back in touch.

This abrupt disconnection, preceded by loud rumbling, triggered NBR’s coverage of the quake but calls yesterday afternoon to the office and cellphone of the Christchurch man would not connect.

Last night the following text was received from the source: “Was on 5th floor, but me and my family ok. Wow that was a big one. House is munted from first quake but worse now.”

Twitpic by @dyedredlaura
Twitpic by @dyedredlaura
Twitpic by @dyedredlaura
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told OneNews that he was thrown across the room by the initial jolt, injuring his leg as he hit a table. 
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told OneNews that he was thrown across the room by the initial jolt, injuring his leg as he hit a table. 

Like a war zone: TV cameras catch the scene inside Christchurch Cathedral.

Like a war zone: TV cameras catch the scene inside Christchurch Cathedral.

Many were prennounced dead upon arrival at Christchurch hospital.
Part 2 of the interview with Chris Hutching in Christchurch
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