A 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked New Zealand's second largest city Christchurch, with a population of approximately 372,000, causing injuries and widespread damage, including the collapse of some buildings and power outages.
Since 4.30pm the city has experienced at least seven major aftershocks, including a 4.3 magnitude quake focused only 10km southwest of Christchurch at 6.54pm, according to the GeoNet website.
Scientists from the United States are on their way to Canterbury to deploy portable monitoring equipment to record aftershocks. GNS Science, Victoria University of Wellington and Stanford University seismologists will start to install the equipment around midday tomorrow and will leave the battery-powered seismographs for about three weeks to find out more about the mechanics of the main shock and rupture.
A state of emergency in earthquake-ravaged Christchurch has been extended until Wednesday, as a tired city faces the long haul ahead. There are still around 60 streets where water mains are shut off. The council says the focus is now on restoring those and improving the reliability of water supply.
Canterbury also continues to be rocked by aftershocks, with dozens of quakes of up to 4.8 magnitude striking overnight. Canterbury was spared the worst from wild weather overnight but the region could still be hit by floods from rising rivers.
People in the affected area should:
Not overload the phone lines with non-emergency calls
Expect aftershocks. Each time one is felt, drop, cover, and hold on
Listen to the radio for updated emergency information and instructions
Look for and extinguish small fires if safe to do so. Fire is a significant hazard following earthquakes
Check yourself first for injuries and get first aid if necessary before helping injured or trapped persons
Help people who require special assistance - infants, elderly people, those without transportation, large families who may need additional help, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them
Assess your home or workplace for damage. If the building appears unsafe get everyone out. Use the stairs, not an elevator and when outside, watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines. Stay out of damaged areas
The Earthquake Commission expects claims from at least 100,000 households to cost $1b. The New Zealand Government will have to decide if it gives help to people without insurance.
Despite tsunami fears by residents, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said "no destructive widespread tsunami threat existed, based on historical earthquake and tsunami data".
The scale of the Christchurch earthquake disaster was "enormous" and residents needed to understand things would not return to normal for "a significant amount of time".
Update September 6th:
Civil Defense authorities are advising residents living in Greater Christchurch, especially those in badly affected areas or with significant damage to their properties, to ensure they continue to have contingency plans in place, especially as bad weather is forecast for the Canterbury region.
People should remain in their homes and avoid non-essential travel whenever possible, and make provisions to stay with friends or relatives for at least the next 24-48 hours, possibly longer. Aftershocks are likely to continue and emergency services, local government and voluntary sector personnel are actively supporting affected communities.
New Zealand's government has extended a state of emergency in earthquake-hit Christchurch.
The city center remains cordoned off due to the danger of falling masonry and glass.
You can report damage to you local council and seek advice from welfare assistance by calling 0800 77 9997 but please be patient as lines will be busy.
Residents are also advised not to use cellular phones unless for emergencies.
Residents should continue listening to the radio for further advice and information.
Emergency services, including hospitals, are operating throughout the affected areas. For minor injuries, Christchurch residents can go to the 24 hour surgery on Bealy Avenue.
Christchurch Earthquake Pictures: www.nzboards.com/news-views-and-issues/christchurch-earthquake-pictures-91511/