Latest updates: Gisborne quake

1.32pm: The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has received 167 claims following the quake. EQC insurance manager Lance Dixon said anyone with house or contents insurance automatically had EQC cover, and had up to three months to lodge a claim.

11.59am: Smashed TVs, burst water pipes and a hole in the lobby ceiling at Gisborne's Portside Hotel tell the tale of last night's earthquake.

The 8.55pm quake, measured 6.8 on the Richter Scale, left most of the hotel's rooms damaged, without water and with jammed doors.

Manager Joan Gerritse said water pipes had burst, water cylinders had moved and water was coming through the ceiling into the foyer. There was a hole in the ceiling of the lobby and TVs were out of their cabinets and smashed on the floors of the rooms.

"The stereo cabinet in my room must have been lifted up because it was on my coffee table afterwards," she said.

Stairwells had cracked and plaster had fallen and into the lobby.

"We are not letting the guests use the stairs at the moment, they are using the fire exit stairways."

Ms Gerritse said the neighbouring Pacific Harbour hotel had been letting Portside's guests use their showers.

"We can't operate at this point in time because we have no water. If worst comes to worst we have been joking that they can go for a swim in the pool," she said.

11.47am:Last night's earthquake has attracted 2456 reports on the Geonet website from as far north as Devonport in Auckland and as far south as Otarata near Bluff.

The Geonet website asks posters to rank the severity of the earthquake that they felt.

11.02am: Seven blocks of the CBD have suffered structural damage. Insurance claims will run into millions.

10.50am: An elderly woman died of a heart attack after the earthquake, Newstalk ZB reported.

10.08am - Wylie Cottage, Gisborne's oldest European building, bore the brunt of the earthquake damage at Tairawhiti Museum.

The brick chimney fell to the ground while internal beams show signs of cracking.

Much of the old furniture was damaged or broken.

Museum director Monty Soutar was initially a relieved man when he went to the premises last night and found minimal damage in the main building.

It could have been a lot worse, he said.

Several vases and similar items were broken in the foyer-cafeteria region.

Some artefacts in the Toihukura display were damaged but were easily repairable, said Mr Soutar.

One vase was the only exhibit from the Whaka-ara-ara exhibit -- opened last Friday -- that was damaged.

Another vase near Mr Soutar's office, valued at $500, was broken.

But no items loaned to the museum were damaged.

Mr Soutar attributed the lack of damage to work undertaken several months ago to secure museum displays from earthquake damage.

That decision was borne from the experience gained from a previous earthquake, he said.

- NZPA

9.37am: The number of people injured is now believed to be 11.

9.19am: Police have experienced some criticism from the public at the cordons sealing off the CBD.

Inspector Waata Shepherd said police appreciate that retailers are missing out on one of the biggest shopping days of the year but it is a Civil Defence Emergency and most retailers appreciate that.

"Parts of the CBD have reopened. Some buildings are taped off that need more work but about one third of the CBD has been reopened," he said.

Roads around Gisborne were clogged with traffic last night, with many people fearing a Tsunami and driving to higher ground, Mr Shepherd said.

He said police have been working around the clock with all staff called in last night after the quake. Some had to be sent home at 1am to ensure they had adequate numbers today.

8.39am: Gisborne station officer Neil Jones said the fire service received about 20 calls last night, one of which included three people trapped in a lift for an hour.

"It was dark and they heard a loud clang above them and they didn't know if the roof was going to cave in or not," Mr Jones said.

He said the fire service had them out in about an hour.

8.29am: The main shopping area of Gisborne remains cordoned off by police while council engineers check the structural safety of buildings. A spokesman for Gisborne Civil Defence said engineers are about half way through checking the dozen or so blocks. He said it is hoped that the shopping sector will be reopened by midday and gas, power and water have been put back on.

8.14am: After-shocks continued to rock the Gisborne area this morning. The latest quake hit at 6.47am today, was again centred 50km southeast of Gisborne, at a depth a 60km, and registered 4.5 on the Richter scale. GNS Science duty seismologist Warwick Smith said the series of after-shocks was expected to last some time, and most of the quakes would be "minor".

7.52am: Senior Sergeant Moera Brown has asked people to stay at home today, despite the fact many people will still have Christmas shopping to complete: "Our advice is for people to wait until midday before they consider coming into town."

7.51am: All state highways and the airport are open but the railway line between Napier and a Gisborne is closed pending an inspection.

7.47am: Police have sealed off 12 central city blocks after fears some of the buildings may be unstable.

Officers called in security guards overnight to help ensure the area was secure and to prevent looting.

7.10am: Only minor injuries have been reported, mostly cuts from flying glass and bruises. Police say the most serious they have heard of is someone who suffered a broken leg.

6.43am: A Gisborne District Council spokesman said building inspectors would conduct a walk through of the CBD this morning to assess the damage.

"They will go block by block and slowly open up the town through the day," he said. The CBD was expected to be closed until at least midday.

6.25am: A hotline has been set up for people with any concerns following last night's magnitude 6.8 earthquake. The number for concerned locals is Gisborne (06) 8672049.

6.00am: The Gisborne Herald reported the most extensive damage was the collapse of the Bernina Sewing Centre roof, while a large parapet crashed through the roof of the Hallenstein building in the main street. The Pencil Gallery on the corner of Grey St and Gladstone Road was damaged, and the veranda of Mitchells Camera House and the Health 2000 shop collapsed.

5.06am: Civil Defence Minister Rick Barker was driving to Gisborne from Hastings this morning to inspect the damage.

- NZPA, NEWSTALK ZB, EDWARD GAY

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