Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says emergency cash grants will be made available for victims of yesterday's quake.
"We know that some people just can't get money and money is what you need at the moment, in a number of cases, to keep your life ticking over," he said this morning.
"We've taken steps there and we'll be updating...with the location and time at which we will make those emergency funds available for special situations."
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett also said the Government would make financial assistance available to earthquake victims.
"Financial assistance will also be made available to those who need it, we have the ability to provide Civil Defence emergency payments and other assistance is available," Ms Bennett said.
The 0800 779997 helpline will operate 24 hours, providing information, advice and transferring calls through to other appropriate agencies.
Mr Parker said he visited a site in the city this morning where it had been several hours since anyone had been pulled alive from the wreckage.
"But our approach is that there are people alive and still trapped in that rubble," he said.
"This morning all our effort is focused on finding our people and getting them out of those buildings."
Mr Parker earlier said people needed to steel themselves for more heartbreak as rescuers continued to bring people, alive and dead, out of buildings shattered in yesterday's earthquake.
Christchurch had just been fighting its way back from the 7.1 earthquake last September.
"We have gone backwards, six months of planning and work wiped out in a few seconds - we need to come to terms with that today, it's a huge blow to the city."
Mr Parker said like everyone else, he spent much of yesterday trying to find out where his parents were.
"But everyone is now accounted for and that's a huge weight off."
It was going to be a very difficult time for the community.
"We need to harden ourselves for what we are going to hear," he told TVNZ.
"What we know is that they are all people that we will end up knowing...There are family, friends and all sorts of people who will be connected right throughout the community. That is going to be really hard."
He said the message to those families with people missing was that everything was begin done to help and to find their relatives and friends.
"We are getting people out alive so keep you hope up but it is going to be a hard day and I think as the news begins to unfold today we will have a clearer picture and it is not going to be a happy picture."
View Christchurch earthquake: Map of the destruction in a larger map