Windows rattled, and buildings swayed for what felt like several minutes, before a short period of calm. Which was followed by at least 30 very noticeable after shocks.
The earthquake which was initially reported as registering 7.4 and its force cut power supply to the city, burst water pipes and caused major structural damage, especially to older buildings in the city.
Rossall Road has several large cracks in the tarmac, and a number of building have lost chimneys or suffered worse structural damage and a lot of the central city has been cordoned as inspectors assess the whether the buildings are safe to inhabit.
Several residents in old houses opposite the art centre were camped outside on the pavement from early morning. Their homes were too damaged to inhabit. The entrance to their building is littered with bricks and debris.
Almost all the old churches and historical buildings in the city have suffered structural damage to varying degrees, and several buildings have partially collapsed.
Many dazed looking residents walked the otherwise deserted city to look at the damage. Shops were closed, with floors strewn with produce that had fallen from shelves.
Aftershocks are still shaking the city.
According to the New York Times
, this quake was among the 10th strongest in New Zealand. The country "records around 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which around 20 top magnitude 5.0."