Last updated: February 28, 2011

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As it happened: 6.3 earthquake rocks Christchurch, New Zealand

At least 113 people have been killed after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand. Here are the news updates that were posted as they happened.

TIMES ARE IN AEDT | SEE BREAKING NEWS FOR THE LATEST COVERAGE

11:02am As we wrap up news.com.au's live quake coverage, the death toll stands at 113, with 228 people still missing. Rescue efforts are focused on the CTV and Pyne Gould buildings, and crews have begun removing rubble from the Christchurch Cathedral site. They have found no signs of life. The last person was rescued alive two days ago, but families are still holding out hope for a miracle. Infrastructure is damaged - phone networks are starting to return but the water system is still out, with residents advised to boil water before consumption and conserve their supplies. With these issues affecting the city, plus looters and multiple aftershocks each day, many residents are leaving town.

News.com.au will continue to cover Christchurch's search efforts via Breaking News as the city faces a painful recovery from one of the most devastating earthquakes the region has seen.

We will leave you with this image by Marty Melville (AFP) from the CTV building, where rescuers refuse to give up the hunt for survivors.

Christchurch earthquake

Christchurch earthquake
Rescue workers attend to the CTV building where a group of Japanese English students are feared buried, in Christchurch on February 24, 2011. New Zealand rescuers refused to give up the hunt for quake survivors, despite hope fading for hundreds feared trapped two days after a disaster that has killed nearly 100. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville
Source: AFP

10:30am Police have corrected the age of one of the deceased identified yesterday. Jayden Harris was 8 months old when he died in the earthquake, not 9 months as first reported. Police regret any distress caused by this error.

10:26am The unstable Hotel Grand Chancellor has not moved in two days, TVNZ reports, easing fears that it may imminently collapse. A safety cordon remains around the building.

10:23am "No sound, nothing" coming from Christchurch Cathedral as search team lowers a camera into the wreckage where up to 22 people are feared buried, Stuff.co.nz reports. 

10:12am Cyclists are making the best of a bad situation - first there was this Twitpic of a BMX rider jumping a cracked road. Now AFP's Torsten Blackwood has filed this photo of cyclists leaping over a damaged path in Christchurch yesterday.

Christchurch Earthquake bikes

Christchurch Earthquake bikes
Cyclists leap over a damaged section of path on February 24, 2011 after a 6.3 earthquake devastated the city of Christchurch on February 22. The quake caused more damage than the 7.1 magnitude quake that hit the city on September 4, 2010 and there are reports of 76 deaths with another 300 listed as missing. AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD
Source: AFP

9:57am A woman who gave birth during the Christchurch earthquake says she won't name her son Richter, Stuff.co.nz reports. Stephanie Holt was having contractions when the quake hit. Staff then considered how to administer an epidural if aftershocks occured. Her son was eventually born by caesarian around eight hours after the earthquake, and he has been named Oliver.

9.27am A couple's wedding will go ahead in Christchurch today after the bride-to-be was rescued from the rubble, NewsTalkZB reports.

Emma Howard, who was trapped in the Pyne Gould building, contacted fiance Chris Greenslade from within the rubble and was rescued six hours later uninjured. The couple will marry today at Christ the King Catholic Church in Burnside.

9.05am The official death toll has now risen to 113, with 228 people still missing.

8.54am Australians are among bogus officials who are going door-to-door in quake-struck Christchurch scouting out appliances to steal from stressed and vulnerable locals. At least two Australian have been presenting themselves to the fire service as both search and rescue staff and disaster victim identification personnel.

Canterbury Police nightshift supervisor Superintendent Russell Gibson said such opportunists were the "lowest of the low".

"We've had more and more reports of people with pseudo professional clothing, clipboards, vests and hard hats going door to door asking about appliances inside When they've been approached they haven't passed muster and they've disappeared. I can only surmise that those people are there with dishonourable intentions. Whether it was just ghoulish curiosity or an elaborate theft plan I don't know."

He added that there had also been a spike in domestic violence similar to one seen after the first quake that hit on September 4. He also warned that suicides were expected to rise.

8.34am Christchurch can expect further aftershocks for a year, and Wellington faces a higher risk of a bigger quake, according to Australian seismologist Kevin McCue, director of the privately-owned Australian Seismological Centre. He told AAP that Christchurch's aftershocks are likely to get smaller and less frequent, but the biggest surprise about Tuesday's 6.3 magnitude quake was that it took so long after last September's earthquake, which weakened many buildings.

"I expected it within the first four or five days," he said.

"We had all given up."

Mr McCue said the biggest worry is that this week's earthquake may have loaded up the boundary between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, which Wellington straddles.

8.22am Although the small seaside town of Lyttleton was the epicentre of the quake, it is believed that none of its 3000 or so residents were killed in the disaster. Lloyd Millar, 50, was walking up one of the community's steep hills when he felt the road shift under his feet.

"It was like standing on a swinging bridge and somebody on the end jumping up and down."

8.13am The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed the safety of 2572 Australians believed to be in Christchurch at the time of the quake. Meanwhile, 120 NSW Police officers and 116 Victorian police officers are leaving today for the devastated city.

7.59am Teams have searched 95 per cent of the central city area, the NZ Herald reports, and are now focused on the CTV and Pyne Gould buildings. The base of the unstable Grand Chancellor Hotel and areas around it haven't been searched as they are too dangerous. Work is beginning on the Christchurch Cathedral, with workers removing rubble and loose masonry from the site that is reported to have up to 22 people buried in it.

7.52am A number of aftershocks have hit Christchurch today, according to GeoNet. Each of the nine aftershocks measured since midnight local time measured between 3.1 and 3.8 and were centred either 10km east of Christchurch or near Lyttleton, which was the epicentre of this week's major quake.

7.43am Prince Philip has signed a condolence book for the earthquake victims in London, TVNZ reports. Messages of support have also come from Kiwi troops stationed in Afghanistan. And the Dalai Lama has offered his "deepest condolences" to the families of quake victims, saying he was shocked and saddened to hear the news, 3 News reports.

6.30am Prime Minister John Key may be forced to go where Julia Gillard has gone before and impose an earthquake levy to help fund the rebuilding of Christchurch.

He told Radio New Zealand that although the country had the "financial capacity to deal with the earthquake", the lack of economic activity in Christchurch would have a serious imapct on the national economy and refused to rule a nationwide tax.

Meanwhile Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said that Christchurch's cathedral would be rebuilt.

"There is some discussion that that is a building we could rebuild brick by brick, stone by stone, we need to find some symbols like that."  

5.30am The Australian has produced a detailed graphic of the technology being used by the search and rescue teams. The acoustic equipment alone can detect the faintest of noises to within a few a metres. Although odds of finding survivors now are remote, the fact that the teams have such equipment at their disposal is hope in itself. See the graphic here.

4.54am Google has created a people finder for those affected by the Christchurch quake.

4.49am The number of missing is now listed as 228 according to a statement by New Zealand's civil defence minister, John Carter this morning. The death toll is currently at 103, but New Zealand Police say they expect this to continue to rise.

3.31am New Zealand Police have issued a warning about people posing as bogus officials to get access to people's homes to steal electronic goods.

Police spokesman Russell Gibson said there had been reports of at least two people of Australian's falsely presenting themselves to the fire service as both Urban Search and Rescue and Disaster Victim Identification staff.

Whether the goal for these people is for criminal reasons of out of ghoulish curiosity it is not acceptable. Even if these people are trying to find a means to be helpful in some way, it may be well intended but it is misguided. We have not given up hope of finding people alive which means time is of the essence and the actions of these individuals are unhelpful to the search and rescue process.

2.36am New Zealand authorities have said the death toll from the quake has now passed the 100 mark, reaching 102 and expect it to continue to rise.

1.26am See the faces of those who have died in the quake and those still missing in this tragic gallery.

12.48am The New Zealand Herald has reported that 20 Chinese students are listed as missing in the Christchurch quake disaster.

11.17pm Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s message in the condolence book for victims of the Christchurch earthquake at the the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra / AAP

news quake

news quake
quake
Source: AAP

11pm There are now 500 Australians in New Zealand assisting with the earthquake relief effort according to the Federal Government.

9.28pm Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has urged Australians to help quake ravaged Christchurch by considering a holiday to New Zealand to help the local economy.

"At the right time, I think, that will also include Australians wanting to take their holiday dollars to New Zealand and to support new Zealanders that way."

8.42pm Teacher's assistant Kevin Fitzgerald, 63, has described his experience.

It was just horrific. I thought the devil was coming up out of the earth.

8.35pm Rescued woman Roslyn Chapman, who was pulled from the rubble of the Pyne Gould Guinness building yesterday, says of her rescuer:

When I saw his face, right there in front of me I just burst into tears, I was just so, so happy. I just felt so lucky and to get down on the street and see my fiance ... and to turn around and look at that building I just can't believe we made it out of there alive.

7.56pm There have been about a dozen cases of looting in Christchurch after the quake, including the theft of generators being used to restore infrastructure. Supt Dave Cliff has assured residents police are cracking down on crime:

We want to give people an absolute assurance that those patrols will be actively looking for anyone who wants to take advantage of what's happened criminally.

7.44pm Among the first four confirmed victims of the quake were Jaime Robert McDowell Gilbert, 22, and Baxter Gowland, five months.

christchurch earthquake victims

christchurch earthquake victims
Source: Supplied

7.21pm Prime Minister John Key has told TV3 there is still some hope of finding survivors.

All over the world when we see disasters like this, we see miracle stories of people being pulled out, days and in some cases weeks after the event. That does not mean that there can't and won't be people trapped in buildings. We can't give up hope, but we also need to be realistic.

7.12pm A statue lies face down on the shattered footpath in Christchurch's central square. The sculpture of the Canterbury region's founder, John Robert Goodey, has fallen from its pedestal and broken into four pieces.

christchurch earthquake statue

christchurch earthquake statue
Two police officers walk past a fallen statue in Christchurch / AP
Source: AAP

6.54pm Australia's cricketers will wear black armbands and mingle with the New Zealand players during a minute's silence before tomorrow's World Cup clash in Nagpur. Ricky Ponting explains:

There are going to be a lot of things happening throughout the game tomorrow ... the national anthems, a minute's silence before the game starts. Our idea is to get both teams to mingle together for that minute's silence, not just stay in the normal line-up - almost like a show of solidarity between the two countries.

6.46pm The Crusaders have ruled out moving next week's round three Super Rugby match against NSW to the Sydney Football Stadium. With their own ground AMI Stadium expected to be out of action for the remainder of the competition after Tuesday's Christchurch earthquake, the Crusaders are looking for a new home base.

6.28pm Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade no longer holds any particular concerns for the safety or welfare of any Australian in Christchurch, after one Australian resident was yesterday confirmed dead in the New Zealand earthquake. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today.

It is something of a miracle that so far we have only seen this impact upon one long-term Australian resident, tragic, tragic news for that family.

6.21pm The mother of a woman trapped in the collapsed CTV building in Christchurch has told of receiving a desperate text message from her daughter, who is now presumed dead, half an hour after the quake hit. Rhea Mae Sumalpong's SMS to her mum Marlene Sumalpong read:

Ma, we're trapped at CTV building. We need help, please rescue us.

5.47pm The no-fly zone over Christchurch has been extended until 6am (4am AEDT) on Sunday. Authorities say this is to prevent aircraft noise interfering with equipment being used to detect signs of life.

5.22pm Rolando Cabunilas, 34, a steel worker from the Philippines says his  wife, Ivy Jane, 33, was on her second day of class at the English-language school in the CTV building when the quake struck.

The longer I don't know what happened, the longer my agony becomes. I can't describe it - it's pain, anger, all emotions.

4.35pm The names of two men killed in the quake have been released: Joseph Tehau Pohio, 40, and Jaime Robert McDowell Gilbert, 22. Police say they'll release the names of two more of the deceased tomorrow morning, and have stressed the importance of taking the time to accurately identify bodies before releasing more names.

4.28pm Police have released the names of two babies who died in the Christchurch quake, nine-month-old Jayden Harris and five-month-old Baxter Gowland.

4.21pm Police say 23 bodies have been recovered from the CTV building today, bringing the total number of bodies found at the site to 47. "We believe there will be additional bodies found at that location," Supt Dave Cliff says. 

4.07pm Supt Dave Cliff says 98 bodies have now been taken to the morgue. He says 226 people are still listed as missing. But, he warns: "That number may grow". Police are now working to identify the dead and the 98 people are expected to be included in the 226 missing.

3.59pm Police will hold news conference shortly. The latest death toll stands at 92, with 238 people missing. There have been no rescues since yesterday.

3.41pm  A prayer service for the people of Christchurch is being held this afternoon at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney. Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Dr Peter Jensen said:

We are praying for the safety and wellbeing of the city and individuals known to us and that the spirit of faith, hope and love will prevail in the whole community.

3.29pm  The earthquake death toll has reached 92 and will rise further, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says.

3.23pm Luxury homes teeter on the edge after huge landslides in Redcliffs, near Christchurch, in this photo by Torsten Blackwood from AFP.

Christchurch earthquake

Christchurch earthquake
Luxury homes teeter on the edge after huge landslides in Redcliffs, near Christchurch, on February 24, 2011 after a 6.3 earthquake devastated the city of Christchurch on February 22. The quake caused more damage than more the 7.1 magnitude quake that hit the city on September 4, 2010 and there are reports of 76 deaths with another 300 listed as missing. AFP PHOTO / Torsten BLACKWOOD
Source: AFP

3.13pm King's Education, which had offices on level three of the Canterbury TV (CTV) building, has released the names of missing staff and students online. It has stressed that some information may be inaccurate due to records lost in the earthquake.

3.02pm Police have told relatives of victims it may be up to a month before bodies recovered from debris could be returned to families, TVNZ reports.

2.46pm Vanessa Burgess and her children have set up a makeshift camp at Christchurch airport, where hundreds are crowding to escape the devastated city, AFP reports. Ms Burgess - who is married to an urban rescue squad member - is headed to Auckland.

"It's crazy, nerve-wracking, my nerves are just... I've just been shaking all day, I haven't eaten,'' she said.

"Just being here makes it easier, being with all these people, it takes your mind off it. When you're alone you feel every single aftershock."

"Our flight's been delayed but that's OK. I don't care, we're getting out of here. And we don't have return tickets."

2.09pm At least 36 aftershocks measuring over 4 on the Richter scale, and four aftershocks above magnitude 5, have been felt since Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake, the NZ Herald reports. There may be more measuring over 5 in the next few days.

1.57pm The release of the names of missing people that police are seriously concerned about has been delayed, stuff.co.nz reports. Police to provide an update on progress at 6pm (4pm AEDT) media briefing.

1.45pm Rescuers have given up all hope of finding any more survivors in the rubble of Christchurch's flattened Canterbury TV building where up to 120 people are buried, AAP reports.

"For now it remains a rescue operation," Canterbury District Area Commander Dave Cliff told reporters on Thursday.

"However we are satisfied for reasons as explained yesterday that at the CTV site there is no chance of survival."

"Somewhere between 60 and 120 people are believed to have died in the building, including more than a dozen Japanese English-language students."

A Japanese urban search and rescue team has been assigned to the site.

1.31pm The search has resumed at the Pyne Gould Corporation building after structural reinforcements were put in place, Radio New Zealand reports.

1.26pm Cold, wet weather expected in Christchurch tonight. Weather authorities advise this could be an opportunity for residents to collect rainwater for drinking. Meanwhile, some volunteers from Rangiora, about 30km out of Christchurch, have started the "Rangiora Earthquake Express" to truck water from their area into Christchurch suburbs most desperately in need today, the NZ Herald reports.

1.18pm Kiwis are being encouraged to wear red and black as a sign of support for the people of Canterbury, stuff.co.nz reports.

1.11pm Film director Peter Jackson and the Hobbit production team have offered any practical help they can, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

"Everyone involved in the production of The Hobbit is shocked and saddened by the earthquake and its devastating aftermath," Jackson said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Christchurch and all those affected by this terrible tragedy."

12.56pm Radio New Zealand is reporting that rescue teams have pulled back from at the Pyne Gould Corporation building due to fears about the building's safety.

12.45pm An Australian Air Force plane has flown 91 Australians home from Christchurch, TVNZ reports.

12.36pm A hole created by a giant boulder which crashed through a house during Tuesday's earthquake, is seen near Lyttelton in this image by AP Photo's Mark Baker:

Christchurch Lyttleton Earthquake

Christchurch Lyttleton Earthquake
A hole, created by a giant boulder which crashed through a house during Tuesday's earthquake, is seen near Lyttelton, on the outskirts of Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. Tuesday's magnitude-6.3 temblor caused extensive damage, and killed dozens of people in the city. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Source: AP

12.24pm Live video coming up at 12.30pm (AEDT): News Limited reporter John Ferguson reporting from Christchurch. Click here to watch.

11.46am Supt Dave Collins says family violence is an issue as people are stressed. "We want people to turn to their family, not turn against them." Canterbury District Health Board is offering advice on dealing with anxiety and stress here.

11.42am Supt Dave Collins has dismissed reports of "signs of life" at buildings this morning following reports of a woman's voice being heard and a text message being received.

"Some of the information is rumour, speculation, not founded on fact," he said.

11.38am Latest police figures: 238 people missing; 76 confirmed dead; between 60 and 120 people trapped in the CTV building; between 16 and 22 bodies in Cathedral Square.

11.35am Three people are known to have died on buses, but more checks are being made.

11.32am Supt Dave Cliff confirms there are between 16 and 22 under the rubble of the Cathedral.

11.30am Supt Dave Cliff says there "dozens" of sites around the city are being checked systematically.

11.19am Supt Dave Cliff says authorities are still running a rescue operation across Christchurch, with teams using sniffer dogs, cameras and audio equipment in the hope of finding survivors.

11.12am Police District Commander Superintendent Dave Cliff has reiterated there is no chance of survival at the CTV building during a media briefing.

11.06am Police minister Judith Collins says there are 76 bodies in the morgue at the moment, but more are expected.

10.54am New Zealand media says the rescue effort at the Pyne Gould Corporation building has moved to a "recovery" phase.

10.48am Christchurch mayor Bob Parker has indicated there are fresh glimmers of hope of finding people alive inside the pancaked six-storey Canterbury TV building.

"I know it doesn't look good, and yesterday they had all but given up but today they (rescuers) are back out there and that is great too."

10.34am Australians using audio equipment at the Canterbury Television (CTV) building have reportedly heard scratching noises from under the rubble. Deputy taskforce commander Peter Dawson told the ABC: "Crews have indicated they may have picked up some slight scratching noises, but that's why we're continuing with that thorough audio search."

10.10am Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood says it's been a difficult few days for the publisher after one staff member died and three others were injured in Christchurch.

"Quite clearly, our focus has been on our people," Mr Hywood said."You don't go through something like this, where you lose a staff member and basically having your main (Christchurch Press) building collapse, without that having to be your essential focus."

But he said he was proud of staff for continuing to publish.

9.52am There are unconfirmed reports a text message has been received from the CTV building site. Queensland USR Deputy taskforce leader Peter Dawson has told nzherald.co.nz his team is at the site this morning, but: "We have not been able pick up any confirmation of anybody... at the moment."

9.26am Prime Minister John Key wants Rugby World Cup games to proceed in Christchurch, saying it would be a powerful symbol of the city's resilience after two major earthquakes in the past six months.

9.21am Kings Education Ltd has issued a list of its staff and students, with NZPA reporting 90 are identified as missing or unaccounted for. The school, which specialises in teaching English to international students, was housed in the collapsed Canterbury TV building.

9.08am TVNZ says body bags have been taken to the CTV building site, and nzherald.co.nz says one body has been recovered. It says a Japanese team is at the site with search dogs.

9am A resident fills a water container from a tanker in this AP picture from Lyttelton. The Prime Minister has said workers are concentrating on restoring water and power supplies, but health authorities are looking for signs of disease. Residents are being urged to boil all water - including tanker supplies - for at least three minutes.

news image water tanker

Water tanker at Lyttelton
WIRE: ** CORRECTS SPELLING OF CITY TO LYTTELTON ** A resident fills a water container from a tanker, following Tuesday's earthquake, in Lyttelton, on the outskirts of Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011. Tuesday's magnitude-6.3 temblor caused extensive damage, and killed dozens of people in the city. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Source: AP

8.43am A Mission Beach woman who escaped cyclone Yasi has been left to trawl devastated Christchurch in search of her missing sister, The Cairns Post reports.

Marie-Noelle Falardeau and her French-Canadian sister Marielle, 60, were holidaying in New Zealand when the quake hit. The Queenslander said: "I'm staying here until I find her. She's a great woman."

8.23am While the official death toll stands at 71, police superintendent Russell Gibson told TV3 today that 50 to 100 people were believed to be missing in the CTV site, and there were another 20 at the Pyne Gould building. TVNZ is now reporting all 22 people missing in the Cathedral are believed to be dead.

8.15am Sky News says a rescue at the Holy Cross Chapel has been abandoned, with reports of a voice being heard from the rubble now believed to be a mistake.

8.03am Canterbury District Health Board, which is responsible for Christchurch and other hospitals, says several members of the media were arrested last night for trying to break in and interview patients, TVNZ reports.

7.41am The home of TV producer Donna Manning, believed trapped in the Canterbury TV building, has reportedly been burgled as her children maintain a vigil at the CTV site.

7.35am Teams from New South Wales are involved in a rescue at the Holy Cross Chapel after the "faint voice" of a woman was heard. They warn it will be a slow process to try to reach her and could take some hours. 

7.26am Police Superintendent Russell Gibson has paid tribute to Australian rescuers, who pulled survivors out of the Pyne Gould building yesterday.

"The Australians have been great. They were here two hours yesterday and they were already pulling people out alive. Today they're really optimistic that they might find some more survivors in there."

7.19am DFAT says 1581 Australians have now been confirmed safe, but fears remain for one Australian in Christchurch who has not been located, Sky News reports.

7.16am It is understood a rescue effort is under way after a female voice was heard in the rubble of the Holy Cross Chapel in central Christchurch.

7.08am There are reports firefighters are responding to signs of life at a site in Christchurch's CBD.

6.46am Murray and Kelly James look at their destroyed house in this picture from AP. Rescue teams will move into the suburbs of Christchurch today.

news image wrecked home

Murray and Kelly James
Murray and Kelly James look at their destroyed house in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011. Tuesday's magnitude-6.3 temblor collapsed buildings, caused extensive other damage and killed dozens of people in the city. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Source: AP

6.37am A 10,000-strong student volunteer army has been gathered via Facebook, NZPA reports.

"We are working closely with Civil Defence in this operation. At this very early stage we are focusing on helping everyday people in their homes in low risk areas with non-life threatening situations," student organiser Sam Johnson was quoted as saying.

Louis Brown, from Te Waipounamu Foundation, which is suppporting the effort said: "It could be lifting shelves or beds for elderly or clearing garages of silt and muck, whatever we can do to help."

Volunteers will meet at the University of Canterbury Students Association tomorrow before moving to sites around the city.

6.30am The death toll was revised down to 71 overnight, based on the number of people formally identified, but authorities say there are other bodies that haven't yet been identified. Prime Minister John Key said he understood the frustration of people waiting for news. "I myself have got one or two people that I think might be missing, and I'd personally like to know the status of them."

6.18am Prime Minister John Key has defended police who described their efforts as a recovery operation. "I think the large reason why (emergency services) are describing this as more likely to be a recovery than a rescue is they're not getting positive signs that people are there (in crushed buildings),'' he said.

But he said there was still hope and there had been miracle rescues in similar events around the world.

"People can survive for a very long time without food or water."

6.09am Rescuer Craig Robinson talks through his footage of a woman's rescue in this video on stuff.co.nz.

5.46am Search and rescue efforts will extend into suburban areas today with more international teams on the ground. No survivors were found overnight, but Prime Minister John Key says there could still be people trapped and alive.

5.35am Friends have paid tribute to tatoo artist Matthew Mceachen, one of the first victims of the earthquake to be publicly named. Jak Parkin said:

"He is going to leave a void in all of us that will be so much larger than his actual physical size. He was only little but his heart was so huge."

4.40am Police have taken over collating the missing toll amid reports the 300 people missing is just speculation. Superintendent Russell Gibson told TV3 the number was "significantly more" than 300 but that some people were reported missing just because they had not answered their mobile phones.

4.12am Officials have confirmed there are now 71 bodies in the mortuary but warned the toll will certainly rise with more bodies yet to be identified.

4.05am The picture below shows rescuers working throughout the night at the Canterbury TV building where up to 100 people are feared lost as they look to recover bodies rather than rescue survivors. Meanwhile, the 70m-high Hotel Grand Chancellor, one of the city's tallest buildings, has remained standing, despite a series of aftershocks, including a 4.1 magnitude shake, NZPA reported.

New Zealand Earthquake CTV Building

New Zealand Earthquake CTV Building
Rescue workers search for victims buried under the rubble near the Canterbury Television building in Christchurch overnight / AP
Source: AP

3.05am As the death of at least one Australian was confirmed yesterday there were growing fears for the 1352 others still accounted for in the quake-hit city.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the long-term Australian resident had died in the Pyne Gould Guiness building and that the public should brace for more bad news, the New Zealand Herald reported.

2.10am The first people killed in the earthquake have been named as tributes have begun flowing for victims of the tragedy.

Philip McDonald was an accountant and member of the Canterbury Crusaders rugby union board, and Mathew Mceachen was a tattoo artist who celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday, according to The Australian.

1.28am A 19-year-old male Japanese student whose crushed leg had to be amputated has recounted the horror of being trapped under the rubble of a collapsed English language school.
 

"I realised I couldn't move in the dark because my left leg was caught in something," he said.

"A teacher also trapped with us encouraged us and said, 'We'll all survive and go home'... I called my brother with my mobile and had him inform the embassy that we were there."

1.15am Around 60 Australians who were caught in the quake have been flown to Brisbane. The first Australian Defence Force evacuation flight arrived at Brisbane Airport last night.

1.00am A firefighting team has moved into the collapsed CTV building to put out a fire in the basement as diggers clear rubble at the base of the building with rescue crews being deployed to areas "where there is more hope".

12.22am There are continuing concerns for three Australians known to have been in Christchurch when the disastrous earthquake struck, the Department of Foreign Affairs and trade (DFAT) says.

11.50pm Australians have begun arriving at Melbourne Airport from Christchurch after surviving the earthquake. In this picture Peter and Kate Mundy meet their daughter Laura from Bendigo. Picture: Chris Gillette.

news

news
Australians have begun arriving at Melbourne Airport from Christchurch after surviving the earthquake. In this picture Peter and Kate Mundy who lost their luggage in Christchurch meet their daughter Laura from Bendigo. Picture: Chris Gillette.
Source: Herald Sun

11.13pm Police are "100 per cent sure" more than 100 people have died in Christchurch's destroyed Canterbury TV building, reported the Herald Sun.

10.30pm At least four aftershocks have been recorded in the space of ten minutes registering 3.6, 3.2, 3.5,and 2.7, TVNZ.co.nz reported.

10.20pm Sunrise host David Koch has apologised for an offensive Tweet saying " time to sleep like the dead" while covering the earthquake disaster in Christchurch. Kochie admitted he made a bad choice of words after not suffering from a lack of sleep.

9.12pm Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Village tourism manager Denis Callesen took this picture, showing parts of a 30 million tonne block of ice that sheared off the Tasman glacier just minutes after the earthquake struck Christchurch:

christchurch earthquake glacier

christchurch earthquake glacier
WIRE: WIRE: ---- EDITORS NOTE ----- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / Denis Callesen" NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS NO ARCHIVES This handout image received and taken from Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Village tourism manager Denis Callesen on February 23, 2011 shows parts of a 30 million tonne block of ice that sheared off the Tasman glacier just minutes after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake which devastated the city of Christchurch on February 22. The huge iceberg crashed into a lake shortly after the 6.3 magnitude tremor rocked the South Island and created waves up to three metres high for 30 minutes which rocked two sightseeing boats on the lake at the time. The Department of Conservation confirmed that a "large chunk" of the glacier fell into the lake but was unable to say if this was caused by the earthquake, which was only felt lightly around Mt Cook some 150 kilometres (93 miles) from the epicentre. AFP PHOTO / HO / DENIS CALLESEN
Source: AFP

8.43pm Rescued former Geelong woman Anne Vos has spoken of her ordeal:

Yeah, I thought that's it. I probably won’t come out because I had the concrete block on my shoulder and pressing on my ribs and I was having trouble breathing...

(I've decided) just to be more kind to myself and to spend less time worrying about stupid things like you know, where’s my bag? Where’s my cards? What does that matter? I can get that later, those things you can replace later. You can’t replace people though.

8.36pm A construction manager helping emergency workers has told how rescuers used his hacksaw to cut off a man's leg to free him after he was pinned under concrete. A fireman asked Fred Haering for the saw, and he handed it over and tried to avert his eyes as the man's leg was sawed off, saving him from certain death.

7.54pm Crusaders players and management will decide tomorrow if Saturday's Super Rugby match with the Hurricanes is to go ahead. New Zealand Rugby Union boss Steve Tew has told TVNZ  rugby becomes secondary in times like this, as he expressed sympathy and support on behalf of the rugby community.

7.46pm The astonishing impact of the earthquake is seen in this rail line, buckled by the shifting earth, in a photo by AFP's Marty Melville:

rail line christchurch earthquake

rail line christchurch earthquake
Source: AFP

7.24pm Many parts of Christchurch remain without power tonight, and 80 per cent of the city is without water. Authorities are reminding residents to conserve water and to avoid making phone calls and use text messages instead if possible.

7.13pm  This deserted street scene was captured by an AFP photographer as Christchurch's night curfew began this evening:

christchurch earthquake

christchurch earthquake
Source: AFP

6.46pm An excerpt from a blog post by 27-year-old Australian man Nathanael Boehm, who experienced the quake yesterday:

I was convinced I was going to die. The city was collapsing around me, people were being buried in rubble and others being struck in the head by debris. Absolute pandemonium. It was surreal … both horrific yet somehow impossible and unbelievable like a nightmare.

6.33pm Sixty-five of the 75 bodies recovered have now been identified, Sky News reports. About 300 people are still missing.

6.26pm CTV chairman Nick Smith says 15 of the company's staff are believed to have died when the CTV building collapsed, and police estimate a total of more than 100 people may have died in the "unsurvivable" building, stuff.co.nz reports.

6.17pm An online travel company has apologised for emailing Australian clients a promotion featuring an image of Christchurch Cathedral - a landmark now badly damaged. Expedia said the message was put in place before the quake hit. Australia and New Zealand general manager Nicolas Chu said:

Expedia sincerely apologises for the unfortunate timing of this communication ... It goes without saying that we are extremely saddened about the devastation the earthquake has caused to Christchurch and Expedia apologises for any insensitivity towards the people of Christchurch, which of course was not our intention.

6.13pm Hundreds of foreign rescuers, equipped with sniffer dogs and cutting-edge technology, are helping New Zealand in its hour of need. Teams have been sent from Australia, Japan, the United States, Britain, Singapore and Taiwan to join hundreds of local rescuers.

5.43pm Christchurch's devastating earthquake is likely to be New Zealand's worst disaster, Civil Defence Minister John Carter says.

5.36pm A rock lies on top of a boat outside a house in the suburb of Redcliffs in Christchurch ... beside a sign warning of rockfalls.

christchurch earthquake

christchurch earthquake
A rock lies on top of of a boat outside a house in the Redcliffs suburb of Christchurch / AFP
Source: Supplied

5.25pm The 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit New Zealand's Christchurch was set to cost the insurance industry up to NZ$11.5 billion ($8.6 billion), disaster modelling firm AIR Worldwide said.

5.10pm Australian women's cricket captain Alex Blackwell says cricket was the last thing on players' minds when their New Zealand tour was cancelled:

Everything has been put into perspective pretty quickly and cricket was really the last thing on our minds at the time. We were out here training when the earthquake hit and we didn't really understand the full gravity of the event ... It wasn't until we were getting all these phone calls and text messages from family members who'd all seen the news. We turned the TV on and realised how fortunate we were to not be in there at the time.

5.02pm Advertising executive Sven Baker tells AFP of his experience as the top two floors of his building tumbled onto the road:

The split-second decision was to run out into the street or dive under a car or under the table. I went under a table just as the whole facade of the building collapsed on the street, so I'm pretty grateful for that instinctive decision.

4.42pm Geelong woman Anne Vos has been rescued, the Herald Sun reports. It comes after her family's hopes were earlier raised and then dashed after the rescue of a woman with a similar name.

4.35pm The creators of the legendary Beached as Bro cartoon have done a special fundraiser for victims of the Christchurch earthquake.

4.28pm Aaron Waine is the son of one of the workers trapped in the crumpled CTV building, where authorities say there is no chance of survivors. He has told AAP that his mum, Susan Chuter, had been just one month into her job as a sales rep at CTV.

She loved it, and she loved life. That's why I feel so ripped off, because mum's just such an awesome person. She works hard, she loves us boys. And she hates earthquakes. To pass away in these conditions, it's one of the cruellest ways to go.

4.20pm International flights have resumed from Christchurch airport this afternoon after a 24-hour suspension.

4.15pm Despite the death of a colleague and the ordeal of surviving a terrifying earthquake, Christchurch news reporters have continued working. The city's daily Fairfax newspaper, The Press, came out today despite its city office partially collapsing, killing one person. About 30 reporters and photographers continued working and reporting today. The Press editor Andrew Holden said:

We know there are quite a number of people who've been killed and it makes it even harder when it's one of your own.
 

3.48pm New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says he wants Rugby World Cup games to proceed in Christchurch this year, but local rugby officials have reservations following the devastating earthquake. The city's AMI stadium was set to be boosted to 45,000 seats for the tournament beginning on September 10.

3.43pm Nearly 26 hours after becoming trapped in the rubble of her office building in earthquake-shattered Christchurch, Anna Bodkin's "miracle" rescue prompted rescue workers to burst into applause. Sadly, the family of Geelong woman Anne Vos is still awaiting news after earlier reports prompted confusion over the rescued woman's identity.

3.05pm Via Twitter:

UpsideBackwards: RT @BezzeraEspresso: RT @devoncotterill: @BezzeraEspresso: Does anyone have Baby Formula? please get hold of this mum on 021339083 in Woolston with no car #eqnz
tck_s: RT @CHC_Airport: Check out our recent Tweets for info about International Passengers travelling without passports from CHC Airport. #chch #eqnz #christchurch
Pipzilla: RT @rhystaylorrr: Sink hole suddenly appeared at south end of Lyttelton Street. Seek alternate route. #eqnz http://twitpic.com/42rlkc
kasbolt: RT @martinluff: RT @ChristchurchLib: Canterbury Earthquake - useful information and links http://ow.ly/41yHt #eqnz SvH

2.50pm The Australian Government will donate $5 million to the Red Cross Appeal for Canterbury earthquake victims. [stuff.co.nz]

2.26pm Operation commander Dave Laurie confirms he does not believe the CTV site is "survivable". [tvnz.co.nz]

A vehicle stuck in the liquification

A vehicle stuck in the liquification
A vehicle stuck in the liquification after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand / AAP
Source: AAP

A vehicle stuck in the liquification after the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand / AAP

2.21pm For safety reasons, a restricted access zone will be in force in central Christchurch from 6.30pm (local time, 4.30pm AEDT). Anyone found in the central city after that time will be arrested, police said. [stuff.co.nz]

2.18pm Superintendent Dave Cliff says there have been six arrests for theft and burglary today. [tvnz.co.nz]

2.09pm What caused the aftershock? Professor Andreas Rietbrock, of the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, said this seismic activity was the result of massive forces exerted as the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates moved in conflicting directions. There had been about six aftershocks on the South Island measured at magnitude 5.0 or above since September, he said, and warns, as the rescue effort unfolds, this may not be over. (AAP)

2.05pm Michelle Gourley from Kaiapoi, north of Christchurch, couldn't reach her 70-year-old dad during in the disaster. She called her brother in San Francisco who put a message on Twitter asking the world if anyone was close to his father's house in Opawa, NZPA reports. Shortly after tweeting, a stranger replied: " ... I'm near Opawa, what's address". The stranger then went to Mr Gourley's home finding him alive and well, sitting in his car outside his badly damaged house. [NZPA]

2pm Multimedia: The Christchurch earthquake disaster explained [PDF].

1.53pm Google application Person Finder: Christchurch Earthquake, February 2011 was tracking 7300 messages by 2pm, with the number growing throughout the day. (NZPA)

1.49pm Power is back on across 60 per cent of Christchurch, says Orion chief executive Roger Sutton. And most of Lyttelton is back on the power grid. "It's slow going, there's extensive damage in Brighton and Dallington." (stuff.co.nz)

1.45pm Air New Zealand says three extra Boeing 777-200 (313 seats) return services will run between Auckland and Christchurch and a Boeing 777-200 from Christchurch to Wellington and Christchurch to Auckland for evacuees will also run. (tvnz.co.nz)

1.42pm Sydney Football Stadium has been offered for the New South Wales Waratahs-Crusaders clash next week if Christchurch is deemed unsafe for the round-three game. Yesterday, Crusaders players fled from the showers and on to the field draped only in towels when the deadly earthquake rocked their Christchurch headquarters. (Foxsports.com.au)

1.36pm A new picture from Christchurch shows the moment Ann Bodkin was rescued from the Pyne Gould Guinness building - more than 24 hours after the earthquake hit. Her husband Graham Richardson has called the rescuers' efforts unbelievable, nzherald.co.nz, reports.

"I can't believe the job they've done. Getting her out is just stupendous. I'm a very happy man. I obviously feel for all the other people waiting to hear."

Mr Richardson said Ann giggled as she was finally brought out of the building.

news image NZ rescue

Woman rescued
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 23: A woman is rescued from the Pyne Gould Guiness building after being trapped for over 24 hours on February 23, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. A massive search and rescue mission is underway and least 75 people have died after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time on Tuesday. The quake, which was an aftershock of a 7.1 magnitude quake which struck the South Island city on September 4, 2010, has seen damage and fatalities far exceeding those of the original. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Source: Getty Images

1.25pm An elite 74-member search and rescue team from California is set to land in New Zealand tomorrow morning (NZ time) to help find survivors buried in the rubble of the Christchurch earthquake.

US President Obama said on the behalf of his wife Michelle and the American people he extended his "deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand".

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those whose lives have been touched by this tragedy, especially as they search for their loved ones and work to recover from this disaster. The United States is a close friend and partner of New Zealand, as evidenced by the meeting of the US-New Zealand Partnership Forum that was underway in Christchurch when the earthquake struck.

1.15pm The family of Geelong-born Anne Vos is still facing an agonising wait as conflicting reports emerge about her welfare. Despite reports that Ms Vos was rescued and on her way to hospital, it is understood that a different woman with a similar name may have been rescued from the same building. Read more at the Herald Sun

1.08pm New Zealand's Ministry of Consumer Affairs warns of an email scam falsely seeking funds for earthquake victims.

1.01pm The Australian's Chip Le Grand reports on the damage in Lyttelton. "Most of the damage is to the first two streets that back onto the harbour, with two out three buildings sustaining significant damage."

12.49pm There are suggestions the woman just rescued from the Pyne Gould Corporation building may be former Geelong resident Anne Vos, but her identity has not been confirmed. Read her story at the Herald Sun

12.36pm nzherald.co.nz reports onlookers applauding as a woman is rescued from the Pyne Gould Corporation building more than 24 hours after the earthquake hit.

12.32pm The Australian women's cricket team is to return home, with their New Zealand tour cancelled in the wake of the quake. Team manager Julie Savage said: "We were training yesterday when the earthquake hit and while we felt the earth move beneath our feet, no-one was injured and we continued training after the tremor stopped.

"It wasn't until we later switched on the TV and saw the disastrous impact the earthquake had on the city of Christchurch.

"Everyone in the Southern Stars squad is safe and well and our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Christchurch and all those affected by this terrible disaster."

12.14pm Some 100 Victoria Police officers, plus logistical support staff, will join a team of 300 Australian police in Christchurch. Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones said the deployment would initially be for a fortnight, but may be extended.

12.11pm The head of New Zealand's fire service has confirmed his officers incorrectly reported 15 people were rescued from a collapsed building.

A fireman had told Radio New Zealand the people were located with a camera and freed.

Fire Service national commander Mike Hall said: "I heard that report ... but I've since been advised that was a false report and is not true."

Police said no survivors had been recovered from the CTV building today. Rescue work has stopped at the site for safety reasons.

12.05pm TVNZ has CCTV footage of the moment the quake struck a Christchurch supermarket.

11.58am When Michelle Gourley got stuck in traffic as she tried to reach her father in Opawa, Christchurch, after yesterday's quake she contacted her brother in San Francisco who sought help on Twitter. Moments later a stranger replied: "Sean I'm near Opawa, what's address." The stranger was able to let the family know John Gourley was alive and well and sitting in his car outside his badly damaged house.

11.52am One of the tallest buildings in Christchurch, The Grand Chancellor hotel, is expected to collapse. The building, which is 26 storeys high and was fully evacuated when the earthquake struck, is leaning heavily to the left. "It's looking more and more precarious," a police spokesman said.

11.48am Beached Az team releases new video urging donations to the NZ Red Cross

11.39am Julia Gillard has confirmed a long-term Australian resident has died in the earthquake. The man was a New Zealander by birth but was a permanent resident, with a wife and children in Australia.

"He lost his life in the earthquake as a result of being trapped in rubble," Ms Gillard said.

11.34am NZPA reports 24 Japanese citizens are missing after the Christchurch quake, including 11 language students feared trapped under the collapsed building of the King's Education College language school.

11.28am Economists say the earthquake will have massive economic implications for the Canterbury region and the rest of the country, but it's too early to quantify the impact.

11.26am Luxury cruise liner the Queen Mary 2 has cancelled its visit to Christchurch and will likely stop at the New Zealand capital Wellington instead after it leaves Sydney this afternoon.

11.10am A rescue team spokesman has said they do not think anyone has survived in the Canterbury TV (CTV) Building due to smoke asphyxiation.

He said rescuers had not had any contact with anyone trapped in the building for the past five hours. "Our resources are better used elsewhere."

11.06am Latest pictures from Christchurch show the army rolling onto the streets:

news image NZ army

Army, Christchurch
WIRE: The Army rolls into the streets after an earthquake struck in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, February 23, 2011. New Zealand declared a national state of emergency after one of its worst earthquake disasters left nearly 400 people dead or missing. Rescuers worked frantically to reach survivors under several collapsed buildings in the stricken city centre of Christchurch, after recovering 75 bodies. About 300 people are still missing after Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude quake. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville
Source: AFP

11.03am Police say reports quoting the fire department that rescuers have freed 15 survivors from a collapsed six-storey office building are incorrect. The search for survivors at the CTV building is continuing.

10.53am Queensland's Urban Search and Rescue Team is leaving for Christchurch today, with technical rescue officers, paramedics and three dogs trained in locating survivors. Chief Superintendent John Cawcutt said: "These dogs can pick up the scent of a person's breath so they'll bypass the deceased and go straight for any signs of life."

10.50am NSW will deploy 200 police officers to Christchurch, leaving on Friday.

10.46am A fire service spokesman comments on the rescue of 15 people found beneath the rubble of the CTV building:

"We've got them out of the building and they're still alive, which was the goal for us, and we're continuing to search for more."

10.41am Suncorp, which is scrambling to prepare for a mountain of claims from the earthquake, has reported a massive 39 per cent profit dive today on the back of recent natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand.

Queensland-based Suncorp - one of the largest players in New Zealand's private insurance market - reported net profit for the six months to December 31 was $223 million, down from $364 million in the previous corresponding period.

10.37am Australia's breakfast TV shows are facing criticism for their coverage of the earthquake.

Danielle Garland writes on Facebook: Can I ask, WTF breaky TV hosts are doing in Christchurch?? Seriously, like the authorities WANT more people to worry about?? Honestly, their tact is appalling

See more comments on Twitter

10.29am A Brisbane man says he thought he would be buried when the quake hit his office building in Christchurch.

The man, who gave his name only as Tim, told the ABC: "I thought the floors on top of us are going to collapse in. It's just this blinding intensity that hits you. It's just this fear, it's almost like claustrophobia I suppose.

"I just prepared myself to be buried. By miracle, there's no logic to it, luckily our building doesn't collapse."

He's now thinking of moving his family: "It's a scary place to be right now and I just don't know what we're going to do."

10.18am NSW firefighters have pulled a woman alive from the ruins of the Pyne Gould building this morning, NZPA reports.

10.10am Rescuers have located and recovered 15 people alive from the CTV (Canterbury Television) building, the Fire Service says.

9.54am Sky News reports three people have been rescued from the PGG (Pyne Gould Guiness) building and rescuers are in contact with others.

9.47am An Australian Air Force Hercules has suffered minor damage in an aftershock after being sent to Christchurch. "A little bit of damage was done," defence force chief Angus Houston said.

The Hercules was unloading troops and about 20 tonnes of equipment.

9.42am New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has declared a national state of emergency.

9.18am 15 people found alive in "pocket" of collapsed CTV building.

9.16am New figures have just been released by authorities in Christchurch. They say there are 55 bodies in the morgue; 20 more bodies being transported to the morgue and 300 people reported missing.

9.12am A new image from the devastated city of Christchurch shows the ongoing rescue effort today:

news image rescuers Christchurch

Christchurch rescuers
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 23: Rescue workers search for survivors on February 23, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake - an aftershock of the 7.1 magnitude quake on September 4 - struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time, with initial reports suggesting damage and fatalities far exceeding the initial quake. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)
Source: Getty Images

9.01am Mayor Bob Parker today described the CTV building where a major rescue effort is under way: "This is a massive building, which is flattened down to less than the space of the ground floor. It's a terrible site. It's still on fire."

Mr Parker was optimistic, however, that more people would still be rescued.

"No matter how hopeless that site may appear, our view is that we've got people alive and we've got to get them out."

8.59am Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says he has visited the CTV building, where more than 100 people are believed to be missing, and saw several bodies being removed.

"It's been several hours on that site since we've been able to extract anybody who was alive," he said.

8.43am Julia Gillard says New Zealand has asked for assistance from the NSW Police to help relieve "hard-pressed" local forces. "We will be doing everything we can to work with our New Zealand family," she said.

8.39am www.stuff.co.nz reports a temporary mortuary for victims has been moved to the Burnham Military Camp "for capacity reasons".

8.34am Prime Minister Julia Gillard says an Australian resident believed killed in the earthquake was assisted by a passer-by in the last hours of his life. "Our thanks would go to that stranger and I think that's an emblem of the kind of spirit that we see in Christchurch as people get together to help each other."

8.28am Money matters: JP Morgan has warned that the Christchurch quake could be the costliest insured disaster since 2008, Bloomberg reports. Excerpt:

Insured losses from the temblor may be [US]$12 billion, Michael Huttner, an analyst at JPMorgan, said in a note to clients. That would be the most expensive calamity since the $19.9 billion loss from Hurricane Ike, which struck the US in 2008, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a New York- based trade group.

More here.

8.24am The ever-wide-eyed Matt Drudge at The Drudge Report has a link to this story, pointing out in a headline that over 100 pilot whales beached themselves off the south island the day before the quake.

8.12am Prime Minister Julia Gillard says a long-term Australian resident of New Zealand origin - "a family man" - is believed to have died.

8.10am Supt David Cliff, pictured below addressing the media today, spoke of the difficulties of the rescue effort. "We want to systematically go through the city and look in the rubble," he said. "It has been really heart wrenching - we know there are bodies, we know there are deceased but our priority has to be with the living."

Supt Russell Gibson said every hour or so rescue workers pull a survivor out of the rubble. "It's time for celebration for us - the staff are quite euphoric when they manage to get someone out. But unfortunately at the same time we find bodies."

news image Dave Cliff

Superintendent Dave Cliff
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 23: Superintendent Dave Cliff talks to the media outside the Christchuch Art Gallery on February 23, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand. At least 65 people have died after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck 20km southeast of Christchurch at around 1pm local time. The quake, which was an aftershock of a 7.1 magnitude quake which struck the South Island city on September 4, 2010, has seen damage and fatalities far exceeding those of the original. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Source: Getty Images

7.56am Canterbury police district superintendent David Cliff says more than 100 people are still believed to be trapped in the Canterbury Television building, some sending text messages to loved ones overnight. "They were coming from a number of people but it has quietened down, so we not sure if the batteries have gone flat."

A number of people are also believed to be trapped in the Pyne Gould Corporation building and in Christchurch's famous cathedral.

7.50am The official death toll stands at 39, with authorities using the number of people who have been formally identified. But Prime Minister John Key said: "Police have said to me there is no indication that the number that they gave to me last night of 65 is inaccurate. If anything it is likely to rise from there."

7.45am The Australian Government is deploying various forms of assistance to New Zealand:

• 36 NSW Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) staff arrived in New Zealand early today.
• 34 more NSW USAR staff are expected to travel to New Zealand by military aircraft later this morning along with two Emergency Management Australia staff.
• 70 Queensland USAR staff will also travel to Christchurch today.
• An Australian Medical Assistance Team is also expected to deploy today.

7.23am A DFAT spokesperson says: "We have confirmed the safety of more than 400 Australians and are seeking to confirm the status of about 1000 who are known or believed to be in the earthquake-affected area."

7.19am Consular officials hold grave fears for one long-term Australian resident of New Zealand origin who was in Christchurch at the time of yesterday's earthquake. DFAT officials say definitive advice on Australian casualties won't be possible for many days.

7.09am New Zealand Labour party leader Phil Goff says the human cost is "horrendous".

"You look at CTV (Canterbury Television) and its smouldering ruins, I was told late last night, early this morning, there were 87 people who were in that building, I think only a handful have got out."

7.04am Christchurch Hospital emergency department head Mike Ardagh says staff worked through the night in the dark because of power cuts. "[It was] pretty unusual circumstances. Everyone rolls their sleeves up and gets on with it."

More than 200 patients have been admitted, many with lacerations, head injuries and broken bones, but as the night went on patients who had been trapped and had more serious injuries arrived, he told Radio New Zealand.

"We've got a number of those sorts of patients where the injuries might be harbouring something more dangerous. Some have sadly died, most of the deaths you will hear in the numbers didn't come to us at all."

6.55am The New Zealand Cabinet will meet at 9.30am (7.30am AEDT) to consider declaring a national state of emergency, giving more control of the situation to central government.

6.48am Kristy Clemence, 32, has given a dramatic account of the moment the quake hit and her eventual rescue from the roof of the Pyne Gould Corporation Building. She describes her uncertainty as she lay at a steep angle, under her desk, nzherald.co.nz reports.

"It felt like we could be there for days. I didn't know if I kept moving, things might start getting worse. I thought I would cause more things to collapse and they could fall on other people. I didn't know what to do.

"I was able to climb through a hole on the roof. I could see the sky so I just climbed out through that [hole]."

6.28am Police Superintendent Russell Gibson tells of scenes of "absolute carnage" in the centre of Christchurch today:

"There are bodies littering the streets - they're trapped in cars, crushed under rubble, and where they are clearly deceased our focus unfortunately at this time has turned to the living."

6.22am Newstalk ZB's Mike Yardley describes the impact of 23 aftershocks on air this morning:

"It was like the city had been chucked on some perverse rollercoaster that had no destination and no endpoint, and of course we still don't know where that is or when."

6.09am Hundreds of rescue workers continued to pull people from the wreckage overnight. This picture, by New Zealand Herald photographer Mark Mitchell, shows a survivor lifted to safety by crane from the wreckage of the Pyne Gould Corporation building:

news image Christchurch rescue

Christchurch rescue
A survivor is lifted down by crane after being rescued from the wreckage of the Pyne Gould Corporation building which collapsed after the earthquake in central Christchurch. 22 February 2011. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell
Source: Supplied

5.48am Police Superintendent Russell Gibson Gibson says the number of trapped "could be another 100, it could easily be more than that" and says the death toll will rise from the 65 given yesterday and revised to an official toll of 38 today. "It will be significantly higher than that."

More than 500 rescuers, including police and military personnel, pulled between 20 and 30 people from the debris overnight, he said.

"It's quite amazing, we have some people we've pulled out and they haven't got so much as a scratch on them, we've had other people where we've had to amputate limbs to get them out."

5.37am Residents are being told to go to one of six schools in the city - Lyttelton, Redcliffs, South New Brighton, Shirley, Wainoni and Phillipstown - for emergency water supplies.

Mayor Bob Parker said: "We will have tankers on those sites. You will need to think about taking vessels along to collect water."

5.31am Civil Defence director John Hamilton says search and rescue personnel from Australia have begun to arrive and "will be deployed straight into the city to assist the New Zealand teams".

"Until we've got the search and rescue teams in place, and systematically go through each building, we won't get an idea of how many people are missing and unaccounted for."

5.27am The official death toll from the Christchurch earthquake has been revised to 38.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday put the number of dead at 65, but only 38 people have formally been identified he said this morning.

Earlier today Civil Defence director John Hamilton put the number of deaths at 32. "The difference in the number comes around because police need to do victim identification and notify next of kin. The number that they have completed through that process is 32," he said.

5.24am Search and rescue teams are today focusing on 10 critical buildings where people may be trapped, says Civil Defence director John Hamilton.

Overnight 11 people were pulled from two buildings by rescuers working under floodlights. The PGG building on Cambridge Terrace and the CTV building on the corner of Madras and Cashel Streets were the worst hit following the 6.3 magnitude quake, and "significant" numbers of people were inside.

5.16am A mother died with her baby in her arms when she was hit by falling debris in Christchurch's Cashel St Mall, stuff.co.nz reports. Passers-by took the child to safety. It was not known how badly it was hurt.

4.30am Civil Defence agency director John Hamilton said this morning the number of confirmed dead in the earthquake was 32 not 65 as Prime Minister John Key said last night.

Speaking to journalists Mr Hamilton said police had confirmed only 32 deaths so far, as had been identified by police, but there were fears the toll could reach as high as 300, Sky News reported.

3.50am People have been pulled alive from collapsed buildings as rescuers have continued to work throughout the night under floodlights.

Police say they are aware of a number of dead bodies in the PGG building on Cambridge Terrace and the CTV building on Madras and Cashel Streets.

3.10am This picture shows Taiwanese emergency search and rescue teams standing for inspection before heading to help devastated Christchurch. Picture Associated Press.

news

news
Emergency search and rescue teams stand for inspection before heading to New Zealand in response to a strong earthquake, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, at the Taoyuan International Airport, in Taoyuan, Taiwan. A powerful 6.3 earthquake hit the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Tuesday, collapsing buildings, burying vehicles under debris and sending rescuers scrambling to help trapped people amid reports of multiple deaths. (AP Photo)
Source: AP

3.04am An emergency cabinet meeting will be held at 9.30am local time to discuss offers of specialist teams being send from Japan and the United States to help find people buried under the rubble

2.40am New Zealand's emergency management chief John Hamilton warned rescue teams have a small window of opportunity to recover people trapped by the quake.

We're reasonably pragmatic and understanding from international experience that there's a kind of window of opportunity which may only be open for about two or three days to effect a real rescue of people who have been trapped.

2.10am  New Zealand Finance Minister Bill English said financial assistance would be available for those with homes devastated by the quake, TVNZ reported.

The station also revealed authorities are working hard to maintain food supply to Christchurch with water supply cut to 80 per cent of the city.

1.43am This video shows the touching reunion as a man who was trapped for five hours is reunited with his mother.

1.32am International flights to Christchurch Airport are likely to be cancelled until at least this afternoon because of damage to the terminals. Airport spokeswoman Monique Oomen told NZPA the domestic and international terminals had been damaged and needed to be checked before regular flights resumed.

12.45pm The Guardian's live blog reports that British PM, David Cameron, has passed on his condolences to New Zealand's prime minister, John Key, by text from Kuwait.

12.37pm The Salvation Army says more than 1000 require accommodation in Christchurch tonight. The emergency services coordinator for The Salvation Army in Christchurch, said that The Salvation Army was working as quickly as possible to put teams together, Christian Today reported.

This picture shows hundreds of survivors taking refuge in an evacuation centre that was set up at Hagley Park, picture courtesy of the New Zealand Herald.

NZ Quake

NZ Quake
Hundreds of people take refuge and sleep in an evacuation centre, set up at Hagley Park, after Christchurch was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake today. Picture: New Zealand Herald Photograph by Sarah Ivey
Source: Supplied

12.24pm The Australian has a riveting first-hand account of the quake from survivor Louise Walton:

Straight away, we all went down under the tables; everything started falling, the air-conditioning units started coming out of the ceiling.

12.11pm Stories of touching humanity emerge from the aftermath, @brianedwardsmed tweeted this message today:

Just heard - from total stranger on Twitter - that my daughter and family are ok. He went round to her house for me. Kindness in bad times.

11.43pm At least 120 people have been pulled alive from the rubble, but there's a report one police officer is missing during the emergency response, Sky News. 

11.36pm Police are warning people not to dig through the rubble themselves, 3news.co.nz reports, as at least 80 per cent of Christchurch's central city is without power.

11.05pm Images taken by New Zealand Herald photographer Mark Mitchell show a city littered with debris from damaged buildings in central Christchurch.

christchurch earthquake

christchurch earthquake
Damaged buildings in central Christchurch. Picture: Mark Mitchell, New Zealand Herald
Source: Supplied
Staff prepare to be rescued from a high rise building.
 

christchurch earthquake

christchurch earthquake
Staff prepare to be rescued from a high rise building in central Christchurch after the 6.3 earthquake. Picture: New Zealand Herald
Source: Supplied
The suburb of Bexley has been inundated as a result of the liquefaction caused by the earthquake.

christchurch earthquake

christchurch earthquake
Liquefaction after the earthquake has flooded streets in Bexley, Christchurch. Picture: Mark Mitchell, New Zealand Herald
Source: Supplied

11.02pm This incredible time-lapse map shows the quake and aftershocks and the areas they hit. For the most impressive results change the setting to "last 24 hours".

10.46pm Google and eq.org.nz have both set up crisis response maps for victims of the quake.

10.27pm Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, has announced Australia will double the number of rescue experts sent to help victims of the quake. A total of 148 Australian Urban Search and Rescue specialists will now be sent to Christchurch at the New Zealand government's request. Mr McClelland said 74 specialists were already being deployed from NSW, while an additional 74 from Queensland would be sent tomorrow morning.

10.18pm Facebook has set up a website to help "Earthquake Stricken Cantabrians" find accommodation.  

10.13pm Australian Seismological Centre director Kevin McCue said the tremor could increase pressure on plate boundaries across New Zealand, increasing the likelihood of a tremor elsewhere, particularly in the capital Wellington. "If you have one (quake) it ups the hazard," he told the New Zealand Herald. "This quake has the potential to load up the plate boundary, increasing the likelihood of a quake at Wellington."

9.57pm The Queen is reportedly "utterly shocked" by the Christchurch earthquake. News agency PA reports her statement read:

My thoughts are with all those who have been affected by this dreadful event. My thoughts are also with the emergency services and everyone who is assisting in the rescue efforts.

9.46pm Christchurch has been rocked by 20 aftershocks since the 6.3 quake and University of Melbourne seismologist Gary Gibson said they were likely to continue for weeks, gradually lessening in intensity over time.

9.12pm Incredible rescue images of a man lowering himself from a high-rise building in Christchurch from Channel 9 tonight:

christchurch earthquake

christchurch earthquake
A man lowers himself down on rope during a Christchurch earthquake rescue. Picture: Channel 9
Source: Supplied

christchurch earthquake

christchurch earthquake
A man lowers himself down on rope during a Christchurch earthquake rescue. Picture: Channel 9
Source: Supplied

8.44pm The first of two Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft carrying 40 search and rescue specialists and 10 tonnes or cargo is on its way to New Zealand. The Australian Defence Force said the planes left the RAAF base at Richmond, in Sydney's northwest, at 8pm (AEDT) to help with the search and rescue efforts. Another 30 specialists and 20 tonnes of cargo is due to leave the Richmond base for Christchurch tomorrow morning.

8.38pm There have been reports the Canterbury Television (CTV) building was on fire with people still trapped in the rubble, MSN NZ reports.

8.12pm At least 100 people remain trapped in the ruins of Christchurch tonight, the New Zealand Herald reports, as New Zealand's TV3 has quoted unconfirmed reports the death toll could reach between 200 and 300.

7.59pm Australian authorities have reminded people concerned about relatives or friends to try to contact them directly. If they cannot be reached, a 24-hour consular emergency hotline, 1300 555 135, is available. Australians in New Zealand can contact consular officials on +612 6261 3305 or the high commission on +64 4473 6411.

7.54pm Fears are growing for at least seven Japanese language students and their teacher who are believed trapped under rubble. Officials at the Toyama College of Foreign Languages say a teacher had contacted her family by SMS, saying she was trapped with seven students, and the family had not heard from her since.

7.51pm Rescuers are focusing on high rise buildings in the central business district, many of which were extensively damaged. They include:
- The Pyne Gould Guinness building, which has tilted at an awkward angle and slumped to the ground with 30 people thought to be inside
- The Christchurch Press building, opposite Christchurch Cathedral, where people are trapped under desks
- The Canterbury TV building, where fatalities have been reported
- The Forsyth Barr Tower, which lost its stairs, so those trapped high above ground have been lifted out by crane
People are also feared trapped in city hotels.

7.49pm Civil Defence director John Hamilton says rescuers will work throughout the night in miserable weather looking for survivors.

7.36pm Australian tourists Gwendoline and Ian Robinson were halfway through their lunchtime bagels when the windows in the Christchurch cafe began shattering. Mrs Robinson told stuff.co.nz:

Things started sliding and you could hear it crashing and you looked around and things were just falling everywhere so it was just really strange. You were being shaken backwards and forwards, side to side ... everything was moving in different directions.

6.56pm Between 150 and 200 people may still be trapped in earthquake-damaged buildings in Christchurch, the city's mayor Bob Parker says.

6.53pm This amazing video footage shows Christchurch before and after it was hit by the devastating quake.

6.36pm Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the relatives of the 8000 Australians known to be in the Canterbury area should prepare for the worst.

6.29pm Sydney doctor David Malouf, in Christchurch for a conference with about 400 other Australian doctors, has told of his experience:

The noise was incredible. I don't understand what made that noise but it was like a jet engine outside. The whole building started to shake, violently shaking to the point where, if you were trying to stand up, you would fall over. The doctors made their way to the hotel foyer, which was covered in glass and pieces of the ceiling, before they walked through the shattered front windows and onto the street. There were just people slowly filing out of buildings with this sort of look of bewilderment on their face. People were very distressed. What was really quite disturbing was water coming out of the ground. Lakes were just appearing in the middle of the street.

6.01pm The earthquake has caused some 30 million tonnes of ice to break off from New Zealand's biggest glacier. Tour guides at the Tasman Glacier in the Southern Alps say the quake caused the ice to "calve" from the glacier, forming icebergs in the terminal lake. Picture: AP

Iceberg

Iceberg
A picture of one of the icebergs formed when ice fell from the glacier. Picture: Twitter user "Naly_D"
Source: Supplied

5.52pm Trapped in a collapsed office building, bleeding as she waits to be rescued, Australian woman Anne Voss has spoken to the Seven Network on her mobile phone:

I was sitting at my desk, and I went under my desk and the ceiling collapsed on top of the desk.So I'm sort of squashed underneath. I haven't been able to move really.

5.49pm This description comes from city councilman Barry Corbett, who was on one of the top floors of the city council building when the quake struck: 

When the shaking had stopped I looked out of the window, which gives a great view onto Christchurch, and there was just dust. It was evident straight away that a lot of buildings had gone.

5.43pm A spokewoman for Christchurch Airport has confirmed the airport is to remain closed tonight night to all but emergency and aid flights NZPA reported. It is hoped domestic flights can resume tomorrow morning at 10am (AEDT) and confirmation of that will be given at 8am. Flights elsewhere in New Zealand resumed about 2.30pm after they were shut down for about an hour.

5.09pm Christchurch Hospital is bracing for a sudden increase in new babies as women go into premature labour brought on by a massive earthquake, NZPA reports.

4.40pm Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says DFAT has been inundated with calls to its helpline, with 2000 calls within the first few hours. He's reminded concerned Australians to first try contacting their loved one directly, before calling DFAT. He says 8000 Australians are estimated to be in the region at the moment.

4.34pm This photo filed by Getty Images shows crushed cars in a carpark building in Christchurch:

cars in christchurch

cars in christchurch
Source: Getty Images

4.24pm BULLETIN: NZ PRIME MINISTER JOHN KEY SAYS AT LEAST 65 PEOPLE ARE DEAD.

The death toll I have at the moment is 65 and that may rise. So it's an absolute tragedy for this city, for New Zealand, for the people that we care so much about. It's a terrifying time for the people of Canterbury.

4.15pm Authorities say a woman seen sheltering in a window of the Christchurch cathedral in television footage screened earlier today was rescued, and suffered a broken arm.

4.11pm Seventeen people have been confirmed dead, New Zealand's Civil Defence director John Hamilton says.

4.02pm This multimedia map details the location and anatomy of the earthquake as it struck. 

3.53pm This blog post by tectonics geologist Chris Rowan compares last September's quake in Christchurch with the latest, and explains why the effects of today's quake were so much more severe. Excerpts:

The proximity of the rupture, combined with the fact that many buildings in Christchurch had unrepaired damage from September’s earthquake, the timing (in the middle of the day rather than the middle of the night) and the ever-looming spectre of liquefaction, which severely magnifies the effects of shaking, have sadly resulted in collapsed buildings, and at least some casualties.

The other thing worth noting is that today's rupture occurred in a region of crust that, according to modelling, saw a significant stress change in the crust as a result of last September's earthquake. This seems unlikely to be a coincidence. We're looking at a grey area between an 'aftershock' and a 'triggered earthquake' ...

More (very scientific) reading here.

3.38pm Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has told the National Press Club this is a "horrible time" for the people of Christchurch:

The damage is large, it's the middle of the working day, and the earthquake has not been deep from the surface. For the people of Christchurch this just isn't fair.

3.34pm National political editor Malcolm Farr reports from Canberra:

Julia Gillard ends Question Time and reveals 40 NSW rescue workers are on a RAAF aircraft on their was to the New Zealand quake zone.

Queensland and South Australian emergency specialists have also volunteered.

The PM said latest news was not good, with reports of damage to tourist areas and a youth hostel.

More from Malcolm Farr today in Canberra.

3.29pm Aerial views from helicopters over Christchurch are revealing the extent of the devastation in central Christchurch. Entire office blocks have fallen over, facades of churches have collapsed, there are streets full of water from liquefaction and burst water mains. Emergency services can be seen on rooftops trying to break into buildings where people are believed trapped. The anchors on New Zealand's TV3 news are clearly rattled by what they are seeing.

3.26pm A delegation of nine members of the US Congress visiting Christchurch are reported to be safe.

3.10pm There are reports of emotional rescues taking place across the city. "They are going to come and get you down. Just keep away from the edge," a woman yelled to a distraught colleague trapped on the top level of what used to be a four-storey building. The woman was rescued by firefighters on a crane, hugging her colleagues as she reached the ground.

3.06pm New Zealand police have set up a page with their latest information on the Canterbury Earthquake.

3.05pm The NZ Herald has a guide to affected infrastructure in Christchurch. Inner-city residents are being asked to save water, some roads are impassable and power is being slowly restored to the city. Read on here.

2.36pm Julia Gillard says it's too early to say how many Australians were in Christchurch, but the national women's cricket team, which has been training there, are safe. "We've got no reports at this stage of Australian fatalities," she says.

2.29pm Christchurch's mayor has declared a state of emergency, saying it was a "black day" for the city.

2.22pm Australia has sent a search and rescue team to Christchurch. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has spoken directly with NZ Prime Minister John Key and Australia would provide any assistance requested. She told parliament the images from Christchurch were "truly shocking":

People wandering around with blood literally streaming across their heads and faces. Images of buildings that have been reduced to rubble...

2.17pm TV3 reports bodies have been seen coming out of a YHA hostel.

2.16pm A map pulled together by Paul Nicholls of the University of Canterbury's Digital Media Group in Christchurch shows the spreading intensity of the earthquake. A picture follows but you can see the full animation at the website.

Christchurch intensity

Christchurch intensity
Source: Supplied

2.04pm Google has launched a "person finder" tool for the Christchurch earthquake which starts with a simple question - "what is your situation?" - and the options are either that you're looking for someone or have information about someone. See it here.

1.56pm A passenger on board a plane that landed in Christchurch as the quake hit has described seeing the terminal shuddering on the ground. Also:

Auckland Airport spokesman Richard Llewellyn said the airways system around the country was closed shortly after the 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck just after 1pm local time (11am AEDT).

"For the moment planes are landing but no planes are departing," Mr Llewellyn said.

Christchurch Airport remains closed and was evacuated following the earthquake.

More in our travel section.

1.46pm The before-and-after interactive slider below shows how Christchurch Cathedral looks after its spire, which stands over 63m above the square, has been reduced to a stump.   

Before

Christchurch Cathedral before the February 22, 2011 quake

After

Christchurch Cathedral after the February 22, 2011 earthquake

1.30pm The NZ dollar has dropped heavily on the currency markets. More from Bloomberg.

1.24pm This amazing description of the scene in Christchurch has just been filed into the online coverage of NZ's National Business Review. Their reporter Chris Hutching phoned into the newsroom - here are some edited extracts of what he said:

"Mate, this is chaos ... it's incredible ... I'm in the middle of town now ... This time people have been killed ... 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 ... the Hotel Grand Chancellor, a 24 level building completed in 1990 – one corner of it appears to have collapsed ... It's one of the tallest buildings in Christchurch. It will have to come down ... Going around, any brick building that survived the last one is rooted."

More here.

1.04pm Facebook links.... there is a Christchurch Quake live page with updates from people on the ground and people seeking information on loved ones. Also if you are looking to contact loved ones you can try the #eqnzContact hashtag on Twitter.

12.57pm New Zealand's National Business Review reports on the government response:

Prime Minister John Key will fly to Christchurch immediately after an emergency Cabinet meeting at 3pm, conditions permitting.

The Civil Defence bunker in the Beehive had been activated, but details of the damage in Christchurch remained extremely “sketchy” as communication with Christchurch Civil Defence was limited following the quake, he said.

Mr Key said fatalities could not yet be ruled out.

"Details are sketchy. But the worrying fear is that this earthquake has taken place at a time when Cantabrians were going about their business, a very populated time with people at work, children at school."

More here.

12.50pm Link to the USGS report on the quake, which puts it at 5.6 on the Richter scale and at 6.7km below the surface. There are also maps, graphs and other data at the link.

12.41pm The NZ Herald reports Vodafone are asking people to refrain from making calls and send text messages instead.

12.23pm Also from the NZ Herald - police have called in defence forces to help evacuate the CBD and stricken residents.

12.21pm From the NZ Herald's Twitter feed:

Fire Service has just confirmed to RadioNZ that there have been deaths in Christchurch.

12.16pm BULLETIN: New Zealand quake causes multiple fatalities and building collapses: police

12.07pm NZ Prime Minister John Key said in Parliament that he could not rule out fatalities. There are unconfirmed reports in local media that bodies have been found. Also NZPA just reported:

Civil Defence Minister John Carter said there had been unconfirmed reports of fatalities.

11.58am Sky News NZ quotes the civil defence minister as saying there are unconfirmed reports of fatalities. Several witnesses on the streets reported people injured in their offices when the quake struck just after 1pm local time (11am AEDT).

11.56am Christchurch airport has been closed.

Earlier "You can see cars rocking as they go down the road," Sky News correspondent Kate King reports.

"I saw the ground role up in front of me. It lasted for about 20 to 30 seconds."

King said she saw fresh cracks appear in the road and "waterfalls of water" streaming as they pushed out of the ground.

"It's fair to say I'm a bit scared. There are people hugging each other. It's quite traumatic. Quite a lot of these people have lost a lot financially and mentally." 

The shock measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.

Christchurch was rocked by a 7.1 earthquake in September last year causing widespread destruction.

This aftershock is the most severe of the thousands of aftershocks since then.

Local reports say buildings and houses had collapsed all around the city centre and the city's iconic cathedral had been destroyed.

Christchurch Hospital was being evacuated, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

Witnesses have told local reporters there would be "deaths" this time.

Power was out in the city and phone lines were down.

"It was incredibly violent, very very scary," one visitor to the city, Philip Gregan told AAP over the phone.

"We're all standing out on the street with sirens going off around us.

"Oh no, there's another one,'' he said while on the phone.

"I want to get out of here."

Auckland GNS Science said the quake was centred at Lyttelton at a depth of 5km.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the jolt was felt in the capital Wellington to the north and the city of Dunedin to the south.

Residents say it lasted about a minute.

Tarmac on the road was cracked and water mains had burst, flooding the streets with water.

Christchurch was hit with a devastating magnitude 7.1 on September 4 last year.

The epicentre was 40km west of Christchurch at a depth of 10km.

The city, New Zealand's third largest, has been shaking regularly since, with aftershocks up to 5.1 magnitude recorded.

The mayor of a New Zealand city rattled by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake says there are reports of serious injuries from the temblor.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says Tuesday's quake left people in the city council building injured, and he's heard reports of other serious injuries throughout the city.

The US Geological Survey said the temblor was centred five kilometres from the city at a depth of four kilometres.
Christchurch has been hit by hundreds of aftershocks since a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck on September 4 last year, causing extensive damage and a handful of injuries, but no deaths.

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