High numbers of grieving or homeless Christchurch residents have rushed to take up an offer of help from the Red Cross.
The aid organisation made two cash grants from its 2011 Earthquake Appeal fund available to those hit hardest by last week's 6.3 magnitude earthquake at midday today.
Those who lost a close family member in the earthquake are able to claim a $10,000 bereavement grant
Couples and families forced out their home or living without essential services such as power and water can claim a $1000 emergency and hardship grant. That is reduced to $500 for a single person.
A Red Cross spokeswoman said the number of people who accessed the grants in the first hours they were on offer had not yet been counted.
But the demand for the grant had been high, with significant numbers accessing the organisation's website to find online application forms, she said.
Earthquake appeal commission chair Sir John Hansen promised the applications would be approved in "days, not weeks or months".
All the funds donated to the appeal would be used to help earthquake victims, with no cash deducted for administration or staff costs, he said.
"The grants will be distributed fairly, transparently and in a timely manner. Cash is going to be vital in helping people rebuild their homes and lives. It will enable them to buy what they need most, and these purchases will help revitalise local economies."
Application forms for the grants are online at www.redcross.org.nz. Grants will be electronically transferred into each recipient's bank account once approved.
The New Zealand Red Cross 2011 Earthquake Appeal has raised $11.6 million to date
To make an automatic $20 donation, call 0900 733 27, or text 4419 to donate $3.