BREAKING NEWS: 2300 hrs New Zealand time: : GNS Science is warning of more aftershocks in coming days as thousands of people face a night without power after magnitude 6.0 and 5.5 earthquakes rocked Christchurch.
The magnitude 5.5 quake struck at 1pm, 10 kilometres east of Christchurch at Taylor's Mistake beach, at a depth of 11 kilometres, and sent people scrambling for cover. It was followed at 2.20pm by a more powerful magnitude 6 quake, centred 10 kilometres southeast of the city and 9km underground.
At least 40 people were injured in the earthquakes today, including two who were injured seriously, Radio New Zealand reported. At least ten people were taken to Christchurch Hospital with injuries due to falling building material after the 1pm quake.
Other residents from the devastated city cried in the streets and hugged their children.
Police said there had been no deaths.
Lines company Orion said 20,000 homes and businesses in eastern Christchurch were without power at 7pm. It was unlikely power would be restored to them overnight.
The company said crews were making good progress in restoring electricity to the city. The earthquakes had initially knocked out power to 56,000 homes and business.
Canterbury District Health Board advised that all water must now be boiled and residents should use chemical toilets or portaloos.
Christchurch City Council has set up a welfare centre at Cowles Stadium, where beds are available, for people who have had to leave their homes.
Shortly after I got news of the earthquake, I just phoned my daughter Ruia who lives in my house in Christchurch, but she was out of town. Then I spoke to Gavin McDermott, my son-in-law who was at work when it struck and he said " the whole building rocked and shook very hard." He went on to say that many people in Christchurch are stressed and scared by so many aftershocks since the big one which caused massive destruction on 22 February this year.
My good friend Marja wrote this on her blog:
Liquifaction pooring into the streets as you see above. Serious rock falls in Sumner and other places, people evacuated, 50.000 people without power, many without water, Buildings fell down, most luckily in the central city etc
At 1 pm a 5.5 quake struck. I was at work and everything was shaking like hell. It was frightening. Luckily it didn't take too long and we could breath again. I had a client, no time for lunch, so I had to hop over to the shop for some food after 2 pm. I talked to a shop keeper who said that a building in Stanmore street had collapsed with 2 people in it. Later it was found that the building had been cleared. Anyway I got my lunch, stood at the zebra and the violent shaking started at 2.20 pm A 6.0 magnitude I learned later. I nearly fell down. It was if you stood on a ship in a wild storm. It was scary and I said loudly shit to a man next to me. Yes he said calmly, staring into nowhere.. The power was off at work, people came out from under the table. We all went home.
Dust rises from rock falls of Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour moments after the second large shock.
A series of dozens of aftershocks have hit Canterbury following the devastating February 22 earthquake where 182 people died, and a damaging magnitude 7.1 earthquake with no fatalities last September.
The February 22 quake measured magnitude 6.3 and left 100,000 homes damaged - 10,000 beyond repair. Christchurch's CBD was left in ruins, with 900 buildings to be demolished.
City council staff at the Art Gallery's civil defence headquarters said the 2.20pm aftershock was "very very significant" and a number of buildings had collapsed in the red zone.
Emergency teams confirmed the leaning Hotel Grand Chancellor had tipped further over.
The Art Centre's historic clock tower has lost its clockface. It has shattered and fallen to the ground.
Art Centre director Ken Franklin saw the clockface collapse. "I saw stuff coming down off the front of the clock tower. It was all coming down.
"It was a very uncomfortable place to be because I was trapped [between the clock tower] and the fence."
There had been "quite a lot" more damage to gables already broken in the February quake and more stone collapsed in the Great Hall.
The tower of Lyttelton's historic timeball station fell down in today's second quake.
Mayor Bob Parker told Radio NZ today's second large quake was bigger than the 1pm one.
"Thank God we had evacuated the red zone.
"We are being enveloped with dust. It is very very scary.
"We need to get a picture of what is really happening and to make a call on where we need to send our essential services."
More masonry has fallen from the Christchurch Catheral in the afternoon's second much larger quake, sending up large clouds of dust.
There are also reports that another building in Lichfield Street has fallen down.
Line company Orion said power was out to approximately 54,000 customers across Christchurch following the 6.0 magnitude quake.
Todays quakes have grounded all flights to and from Christchurch Airport.
Quakes since 1pm:
- 2.40pm: magnitude 4.9 quake, 10km east of Christchurch, at a depth of 10km.
- 2.20pm: magnitude 6 quake, 10km southeast of Christchurch, at a depth of 9km.
- 1.28pm: magnitude 3.4 quake, 10km southeast of Christchurch, at a depth of 9km.
- 1.08pm: magnitude 4.4 quake, 10km southeast of Christchurch, at a depth of 11km.
- 1pm: magnitude 5.5 quake, 10km east of Christchurch, at a depth of 11km.
Six people were taken to Christchurch Hospital with moderately serious injuries due to falling building material after the 1pm earthquake.
Two men who had been salvaging windows from the St Johns Church in the central city were reported to have received cuts and bruises and were taken to hospital.
St John staff member Alistair Drye said the two men were ok, but shaken.
"The walls fell down around them," he said.
The church had been severely damaged in February's earthquake and was set to be demolished.
The front of the church on the corner of Hereford and Madras Streets collapsed in today's shakes.
Police said there were no reports of injuries following the second aftershock.
Some roads and bridges were closed due to further damage or liquefaction.
Canterbury police communication manager Stephen Hill said police were moving to evacuate the red zone.
St John Ambulance said several ambulances were operating in the city and some were on stand by.
A police spokesman said a building on the corner of Stanmore and Worcester streets had collapsed. Police had feared people were trapped, but a search established this was not the case.
The 5.5 magnitude quake followed a 4.3 tremor, 10km north of Darfield, half an hour earlier, and was followed by a magnitude 4.4 earthquake eight minutes later 10 kilometres southeast of the CBD.
Fire Service spokesman Dan Coward said there had been countless callouts to burst pipes, especially in the Sumner area where many locals were "freaked out".
He said fire crews were investigating a number of suspected fires and the smell of smoke in various sites around the city.
Orion said power has been lost to about 10,000 homes in the eastern suburbs.
Dust has billowed out of the inner city red zone, indicating the collapse of buildings.
Further masonry has reportedly fallen from buildings in the damaged Arts Centre.
Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said officials were "still in the information gathering stage" but the city was unlikely to be plunged back into a state of emergency.
"We were lucky it didn't go on for longer. But something as sharp and violent as that would have damaged stone buildings."
He said there were unconfirmed reports of injuries within the cordon where dozens of demolition contractors have been working.
Parker said all the inner city buildings had been evacuated.
Significant rockfalls have been seen in Sumner and Taylors Mistake and land and cellphone lines were down in many of the beachside suburbs and in the Heathcote Valley.
Liquefaction had been reported across the eastern suburbs and as far away as Kaiapoi.
Sirens were sounding throughout the inner city and helicopters are flying over the red zone. Ambulances were racing along streets at the edge of the cordon to reach the injured.
Telephone networks reported lines overloading, and requesting users to text message rather than call. Telephone, Telstra and Vodafone all report congestion.
Vacant shops on the western side of Stanmore Road, that were red stickered after the February quake, have partially collapsed.
Police officers were at the scene in hard hats cordoning off the area.
Dominos Pizza assistant manager Renee Murray said the buildings had partially collapsed.
"All the shops have fallen down,'' she said. "Half of the roof has fallen in. They have not fully collapsed.''
Rocks have fallen again from the cliff face behind Redcliffs School.
GNS Science seismologist Dr Bill Fry said the initial 5.5-magnitude might change after further analysis.
The very sharp quake appeared to be located towards the eastern end of the Port Hills fault that caused the February 22 earthquake, but it was too early to say that with any certainty, he said.
All staff at the Art Gallery, currently being used by earthquake and council officials, were evacuated.
Students at Burnside High, Christ's College, St Margarets, and St Andrews College, were also sent out of buildings to the safety of playing fields.
There were evacuations at Canterbury University, Westfield Riccarton mall and Pak 'n Save Wainoni.
Staff at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority have evacuated their Papanui building and won't return until a structural engineer has assessed it, a civil defence spokesman said.
Canterbury University law student Jennifer Jones was on the second floor of the university library when the quake hit. "It started off not too bad but then all the books started flying off the shelves. You've got 11 floors above you so everyone got out pretty quickly."
The university has been evacuated and will be closed for the rest of the day. Jennifer says exams start next week so students will probably have to look for somewhere else to study. She got in her car and drove home to Riccarton and said it was chaos on the streets with police cars heading off in all different directions.
One Pak 'n Save Wainoni worker said items had been thrown from the shelves and the floor was littered with food and broken glass.
"It was pretty freaky. It felt like it was right under the supermarket," she said.
Sumner Supervalue supermarket is closed while staff clear fallen stock.
Residents in Beckenham and Merivale said crockery smashed and shelves were emptied.
More liquefaction has been reported in Christchurch's eastern suburbs.
In the Liggins St area of Horseshoe Lake the ground was bubbling, with sand spurting out of the ground, as happened in the first two major quakes, a resident said.
Press reporter Marc Greenhill was in Brooker Ave, Burwood, when the 6.0 struck.
He was talking to one of the residents who was trying to clean liquefaction out of his lounge from the 1pm quake when the second one struck.
"The road split down the middle and seven or eight mini geysers spurted liquefaction and water onto the road."
Within a minute the whole street was flooded and several cars were trapped.
Water levels rose above the gutter and across the pavement and up into driveways.
A woman came screaming out of her home as liquefaction silt and water poured out into gardens.
Anthony Surynt was inside an electrical workshop in Sydenham, near the city centre, when the magnitude 6 quake hit.
"Racks that didn't come down in the last earthquake came down and everyone was out on the street this time," he says.
"This one gave us a bit of a warning before it hit. I struggled to stand up. It lasted a bit longer than the last one but it was much more violent. There are still aftershocks going on now."
A witness near the tunnel said the 1pm quake dislodged rocks from the Port Hills above, some which looked to be as big as car tyres.
Central Christchurch resident Jon Hicks said "everything come out of the fridge" during the quake.
Other items had fallen over inside his home, but power and water supplies were still working as normal, he said.
Anthony Surynt was working in a electrical workshop in Sydenham, close to the CBD, when the quake hit. He says it came on really fast and lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds. "It was quite quick. I wouldn't be surprised if another building came down."
He says it didn't feel as big as the February 22 quake but compared it to the September quake. Surynt ran out of the building as soon as he felt the earthquake, fearful of all the electrical equipment in the workshop. He has now gone back to work.
Christchurch east MP Aaron Gilmore said he was just getting out of the car when the quake hit and couldn't work out what was going on.
"I could see the ground rise on the road, it was a bit freaky."
There was cracking in the wall of his North New Brighton office that hadn't been there in the last quake and more liquefaction and water.
"I was here for that last 5.5 quake and it definitely felt bigger," Gilmore said.
Lorraine Hill, who lives in Taylor's Mistake, said she was thrown out of bed by the earthquake's force.
"It was enough to throw me on the floor and have great difficulty getting up," she said.
"It's just our nerves, we haven't had one that big for so long."
Christchurch resident Amy Brown was home alone when the latest quake hit.
She said she was frightened and ran to a door frame for cover.
"It was like February. Things started to fall out of the pantry."
She urgently got in contact with her husband, and both checked on their children at school.
Meika Gale was working at Buns Bakery in Woolston when the quake hit and says some of the roof collapsed into the shop. She says some drinks fell out out of the chiller but there isn't any major damage.
She says it was a "really violent shake" that lasted about 30 seconds.
Meika was preoccupied with trying to get hold of her former partner who is looking after their four-year-old daughter but phone lines are restricted.
Twitter user Nathanael Boehm said his two level house "swayed heaps". "Was up and ready to leap out a window if it started coming down.
"That would have been bloody close to a 6 magnitude quake. Heart going mental. Hope everyone ok!"
Other Twitter users also reported smashed items in their houses and car alarms being set of by the aftershock.
Richard Derham reported walking through the Arts Centre carpark and seeing "a couple of hundred cars start dancing".
Special thanks to stuff.co.nz for permission to use some text and photos.