Today's 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Canterbury is the most significant [in New Zealand] since the 1931 magnitude 7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, scientists say.
Christchurch - and the wider South Island - was rocked by the massive quake at 4.35am. Buildings were flattened, residents injured and infrastructure damaged.
The quake - initially reported at 7.4 magnitude but later downgraded - was centred 30km west of the city and 33km underground. It has been followed by a series of strong aftershocks.
Power is out to most of Christchurch and rural Canterbury, and the central city has been closed down by police because of the amount of rubble in the streets. Water pipes have ruptured and there are reports of flooding in some eastern Christchurch areas.
As many as 1000 residents from Christchurch's seaside suburbs may be evacuated due to flooding from broken water and sewage pipes...Emergency services have rescued about 10 people from holes in the ground including a person who was trapped in a pit in River Road after the ground collapsed.
The state of emergency was declared shortly before 10am after Civil Defence Minister John Carter described the quake as a significant disaster. He urged people not to panic.
So far, two people have been reported seriously injured in the quake. One man in his fifties was hit by a falling chimney and is now in a serious condition in the intensive care unit in Christchurch Hospital. Another man in his fifties has serious injuries after being cut by glass in the earthquake...
Search and rescue teams have been deployed to the central city to check for trapped people in the rubble of the quake.
Christchurch fire service spokesman Mike Bowden there were a number of people trapped in their houses and other buildings by falling chimneys, jammed doors and blocked entrances.
However, there were no reports of people pinned underneath rubble so far.
Mr Bowden said the station had been flooded with calls but fire services were only responding to "cases of life and death."...
About five per cent of buildings in central Christchurch have been damaged and streets are littered with the rubble of building facades.
Many minor bridges have been damaged but all major bridges and road transport routes are okay. The surface of Avonside Drive, in eastern Christchurch, has a huge crack across it.
The rail network has been shut down as inspections are made. Christchurch Airport has also been closed as a precaution but there is no early suggestion of damage.
The Fire Service has divided the city into grids and is sending staff into each area to assess the damage.
Residents have been asked not to drive into the central city.
A spokesperson for lines company Orion said sewer lines and water pipes have ruptured, and whole substations are offline. Power is off to 75 percent of Christchurch and all of rural Canterbury.
Power was expected to be restored to 90 percent of the city by nightfall, however there would be pockets where power would not be able to be restored due to damage...
Christchurch Hospital's emergency department has also seen a number of people with minor injuries - mainly cuts and bruises, but also some broken bones.
Canterbury District Health Board spokeswoman Michele Hider said they were still assessing damage to hospitals and still experiencing after shocks...
I'm in New Zealand, further north, but I have family and friends in Christchurch. Everyone I know is OK, luckily! But the television pictures are just appalling: buildings collapsed, roads cracked, pipes ruptured...We're used to earthquakes in NZ, but there's been nothing on this scale in my lifetime.