SEVERAL people have been confirmed injured in a swarm of earthquakes that have struck Christchurch this afternoon, with more than half a dozen shakes causing damage all around the city.
The largest earthquake, a 6.0, struck at about 2.20pm.
The first shake hit at 1pm and was a magnitude 5.5 quake, but there have been four other minor earthquakes over the afternoon.
At least six people are injured and there have been reports of building collapses after the quakes, although there have been no reports of any serious injuries.
Sumner residents have been asked to self-evacuate for their own safety, the National Crisis centre has been activated, power has been cut to tens of thousands of residents and liquefaction has been reported all over the city.
The first earthquake to hit Canterbury today struck near Darfield, but the remaining quakes have all been centred to the east of the city.
After the first 5.5 magnitude earthquake at 1pm, there was a 4.4 at 1.08pm, a 3.4 at 1.28pm, the 6.0 shake at 2.20pm, a 4.9 at 2.40pm and a 3.7 shake at 3.08pm.
The large quakes were felt as far away as Wellington and Invercargill, and caused further destruction in Christchurch.
Today's swarm of quakes has seen the scarred city suffer further damage:
- The Christchurch Airport terminal has reopened, but runway checks are continuing. Passengers should expect delays and contact their airlines for flight information.
- A bridge has reportedly come down following the magnitude 6.0 quake - believed to possibly be on Gayhurst Rd, Avonside.
- The Old Waimakariri bridge, Moorhouse Ave overbridge, Gloucester/Gayhurst bridge and Anzac Ave bridge are all closed.
- The Merivale Mall has also been closed and the central police station has been evacuated.
- The historic Lyttelton Timeball Station - which suffered significant damage in the February 22 earthquake - has collapsed.
- Two people were rescued from the St John Church on Hereford and Madras streets, but they are not believed to be seriously injured.
- A unit on the corner of Stanmore and Worcester St collapsed, but rescue workers found no casualties.
- There have been reports of liquefaction bubbling up from the ground in the central Christchurch suburb of Richmond and the outer suburbs.
- Rocks have been seen falling from the hills in Sumner.
- Water has been reported pouring out of buildings on Stanmore Rd.
Power and phone
Power and phone services have been cut around Christchurch.
The earthquake has impacted both the cellphone and landline network. Telecom says it is assessing any potential network impact.
Telecom is also urging customers to text word messages, rather than pictures or video, and to limit voice calls to help conserve load on the network.
Telecom said there was some evidence of overloading on its network "as you would expect when there has been a decent shake".
Orion NZ says power has been cut to around 54,000 customers across Christchurch following the magnitude 6 earthquake.
Orion reports Spreydon, Sumner, Redcliffs, Heathcote, New Brighton, Dallington, Fendalton and St Albans have all been affected by power cuts.
Orion advises people in the eastern suburbs who have no power to prepare for a night without power.
The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management has activated the National Crisis Management Centre following today's major aftershocks.
National controller, David Coetzee, said the response to the aftershocks is being managed from the Christchurch City Council's Emergency Operations Centre.
The police headquarters and the offices of the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority have been evacuated.
Christchurch East MP Aaron Gilmore said he drove from his office to his home in his electorate after the 5.5 magnitude quake.
He said the areas which were heavily hit by liquefaction after the February 22 earthquake - Parklands, New Brighton, Bexley, Aranui - once again have flooded streets.
"There is mud, liquefaction water and potholes all along the streets that have already been repaired in the last few months.
"The poor guys who have been doing all that work - well they're out there already.
"It is pretty serious."
He said the magnitude 6 quake felt much stronger.
"There will certainly be some injuries from these quakes - hopefully there are no major serious injuries."
Stronger 'peak ground acceleration'
GNS Science seismologist Jennifer Coppola said the first earthquake would have felt stronger than last Monday's 5.5 magnitude aftershock, as it had a stronger peak ground acceleration.
Ms Coppola said GNS Science had forecast between one and 10 aftershocks between magnitude 4 and 4.9, and between zero and two larger than magnitude 5 for Canterbury between May 19 and June 18.
"So we've hit the magnitude 5 and above number - hopefully there are no more."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.