Residents have spoken of their fear as a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the Canterbury region on Saturday - many saying they had never before felt such a strong quake.
The quake occurred at 4.35am at a depth of 10km, causing extensive damage.
In Banks Peninsula, resident Sue Meadowcroft said that she, her husband and three children huddled in the door frames of their 1920s house. "It was really, truly frightening."[image:13:half:right]
Jan Studholme, who is in Charteris Bay in Banks Peninsula, says she has never felt an earthquake like it, and aftershocks were still being felt an hour after the first quake.
A resident who lives in the suburb of Sockburn, Susannah Symonds, says she and her family has felt about 15 aftershocks so far on Saturday.
Another Christchurch resident, Abby Wakerley, was woken by very violent shaking and a loud noise and described it as the scariest thing she has ever experienced.
Frances Adank, who lives in the suburb of St Albans, says water mains have ruptured there and lots of chimneys have collapsed.
"Honestly, the scale of it is quite astonishing. The city council I think is going to be working for days to get the water mains sorted out ... There's just water pouring out of every front section."
The head of Radio New Zealand's Sound Archives, Karen Neill, lives in central Christchurch and says some houses in the neighbourhood have serious structural damage, including a large two-storey villa which has a collapsed stairwell. Some occupants in the top storey had to be rescued by the Fire Service.
Guy Havell, who was staying at a hotel in Cashel St, says everyone rushed onto the street when the quake struck, cars were crushed and streets blocked. He described the experience as a nightmare.
Kaiapoi's main street blocked
Kaiapoi resident Christine Bolt, says the damage to the town north of Christchurch has been extensive. Some houses have sunk, she says, the main street is blocked off and the rugby field is covered in sewage.
Ms Bolt, who manages the Riverlands Holiday Park, is offering motels and studio units for free to any Kaiapoi residents who need accommodation for the night.
Ross Marwick, who also lives in Kaiapoi, says CDs and broken pottery are strewn across the floor and paintings are hanging askew.
A seismologist at the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, John Ristau, is warning people to be aware of aftershocks and to secure items in their homes.
Farmer knocked off feet
A farmer at Darfield, near the reported epicentre, told Radio New Zealand it was so powerful he couldn't stand up.
Paul Cowie says there has been aftershocks and damage to his neighbours' properties.
"My wife and I just heard the noise and woke up. By the time we were on the floor running for the children ... we just got shook to the floor - the earthquake was just that powerful."
The owner of the Darfield Hotel, about 50km inland from Christchurch, says people were tossed out of bed and televisions thrown to the floor.
Ray O'Connell says nearby roads have been severely damaged and there have been jolting aftershocks on Saturday morning. He estimates they have lost about $15,000 worth of stock.
Mr O'Connell says many people from the city made their way to Darfield, thinking there may have been a tsunami. No warning has been issued.