AFTERSHOCKS have rattled Christchurch in the wake of a 5.7-magnitude quake that shook the city almost five years on from the devastating tremor that killed 185 people and caused widespread destruction.
A host of small shakes kept residents on edge through the night after Sunday’s shallow quake.
The earthquake struck shortly after 1pm on Sunday (11am AEDT) and was initially reported as 5.9 magnitude by GeoNet.
A cliff collapsed into the sea near Taylors Mistake, with five young lifesavers narrowly avoiding injury, stock fell from shelves and shoppers were forced to flee malls.
No serious injuries were reported and there were only minor issues with the city’s infrastructure.
The damaging quake came just a day after Prime Minister John Key visited the city he grew up in to highlight rejuvenation from devastating quakes five years ago. Key said the buildings in the city are much stronger than they were five years ago and by all accounts had come through the quake well.
The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management is activating in response in Wellington and St John ambulance has set up an emergency centre locally but says call numbers have returned to normal.
Mayor Lianne Dalziel says cliffs collapsed at Whitewash Heads, Sumner, and on Wakefield Avenue on the eastern side of Richmond Hill.
Ms Dalziel said the city was in a much better state than it was when the deadly 6.3-quake hit on February 22 in 2011 but it did nothing for the nerves.
“It really is a real set-back psychologically for the city,” she said.
Three schools – Christchurch Girls’ High School, Aranui High School and St Thomas of Canterbury – will be closed on Monday and the Ministry of Education said it was up to individual schools to decide if they opened.
There was traffic chaos as people rushed home to check on loved ones. Water mains are burst and damaged cellphone sites are being repaired.
Christchurch Hospital reports no increase above normal in patient numbers and it’s checking minor damage to its buildings. It’s moving mothers and babies from Burwood Hospital in the eastern suburbs as a precaution.
“Grabbed the TV to stop it falling, books off, car alarms set off by it in the neighbourhood,” Belinda McCammon tweeted immediately after the quake.
“Suddenly the air all full of sirens and birds,” another person tweeted.
Aftershocks of up to 3.5 continue to hit the city.
A spokesman for Sumner Surf Life Saving Club said the club was forming a sea patrol with the Taylors Mistake club to check no boaties or walkers had been caught by falling rubble around the cliffs.
Everyone was “a bit freaked out”, he told AAP.
Sumner was badly hit by the 6.3 magnitude February 22, 2011 quake, and three people died there out of the city total of 185. Civil defence has confirmed no tsunami threat has been issued. A Fire Service spokesman said there were call-outs but “not too much”.
Orion Energy says about 500 customers lost power in northeast Christchurch and Piper Valley on Banks Peninsula. The number is now down to 190.
Shopping malls and Canterbury University were evacuated as a precaution.
This quake was centred 15km east of Christchurch and was 31km deep – with people as far north as Palmerston North and as far south as Dunedin reporting they felt it.
GeoNet spokeswoman Anna Kaiser told AAP the quake was centred slightly offshore and was to the east of a sequence of quakes since the so-called Darfield quake damaged Christchurch.
She said quakes had been progressively moving eastwards.
“Absolutely they’re linked to the earthquakes five years ago. This earthquake is certainly part of the same thing,” she said. She said there would be many aftershocks because Sunday’s quake was shallow.
Liquefaction has been reported at New Brighton and Pines Beach on the eastern side of the city.
The Lyttelton Tunnel, which links the city to its port, has been checked and is open. The airport has remained open.
An NZTA spokeswoman says all highways remain open and bridges are being checked.