CHRISTCHURCH has been left devastated after a massive 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck 30km west of the city at 4.35 local time on Saturday morning.
The quake happened at a depth of 33km, and has left large parts of the area without power, water or telephones.
Roads were blocked by debris after several buildings collapsed onto the streets, leaving their interiors visible and the central city resembling a war zone.
Several large aftershocks struck the region, nzherald.co.nz reported.
Mayor Bob Parker warned residents to conserve water after fears the water infrastructure of Christchurch may have been affected by the 7.1 magnitude quake.
Mr Parker advised residents not to flush the toilet and to conserve water. There were fears the sewerage system may have been damaged.
Mr Parker said that people were being taken to Christchurch Hospital for emergency treatment, and he although he had not heard any reports of serious injuries, he "wouldn't surprise me if there were some."
A state of emergency was declared, and Civil Defence activated the National Crisis Management centre in Wellington.
Residents 'lucky to be alive
Marsha Witehira, 30, was rescued by friend Tama Wharepapa, who literally pulled her to safety by her feet as a wall in her bedroom collapsed around her.
"It just missed my head," Ms Witehira said. "I'm very lucky to be alive. If Tama wasn't here to wake me from my sleep and pull me out, I really wouldn't like to think what the result would be."
Knee Doherty was asleep in her central Christchurch home when the building next door collapsed.
"We didn't even notice the movement as much as the noise," she said. "The back of the house is pretty much gone. All the house next door is gone. It was just a massive noise."
Kineta Knight, said it was a scary sight to see.
"The scariest thing was the quake just felt like it would never end. It wasn't a sharp, sudden jolt. It was like being on a rollercoaster."
"Things were smashing everywhere, we could hear glass breaking."
A Timaru resident said he was awakened by the shaking. His house was groaning and a bedside lamp crashed off its table.
Radio New Zealand said listeners were reporting particularly strong effects in Christchurch, with one saying his house "turned upside down" with crockery breaking.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said no destructive widespread tsunami threat existed based on historical earthquake and tsunami data. However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generated local tsunamis that could be destructive along coasts located within 100km of the earthquake epicentre, it said.
Civil Defence asked people to assess their home or workplace for damage; look for and extinguish small fires if safe to do so; and not overflow the phone lines with non-emergency calls.
- NZ HERALD
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