Images are starting to come out of Kaikoura where widespread damage and one death has occurred.
Elaine Powell sent photos from her daughter's home in Glencree Rd, Oaro.
"No one is hurt thank goodness," she said.
Images show the floor torn from the force of the earthquake and a fire place ripped from a wall.
The fireplace has collapsed inside, leaving a giant hole in the wall where it used to stand.
Drawers have been completely yanked from cabinets and the contents of cupboards and the fridge are smashed on the floor.
Powell said her daughter and two young grandchildren were unharmed, but understandably in shock.
They are unable to leave their property as the road has crumbled either side of the only bridge out, with the bridge now sitting about 50cm higher than the road.
"Even if they could get over that the roads to Kaikoura and to Christchurch are down," she said.
Emergency services are yet to get to Kaikoura but there is one confirmed death of a person at the Elms Homestead in Kaikoura.
Three people live at the historic home. One person was able to escape, one was rescued and third has died.
Relatives of the family are having trouble contacting emergency services due to congested phone lines and power cuts.
Kaikoura's local MP is considering using a helicopter offered by one of his constituents, as slips and deep cracks shut down transport to the Canterbury town.
Phone networks are also down, with both land lines and cellphones out of use.
Local MP Stuart Smith says he's hoping to reach his constituents later today.
Mr Smith says one of the cracks is quite wide and about a metre deep.
Chorus said residents were cut off from contacting people outside of the town by mobile or landline.
A fibre optic cable that connects Kaikoura to the rest of the telecommunications network is likely to have been damaged. A technician is currently in the Kaikoura exchange with a satellite phone to intercept and relay any emergency calls.
The Fire Service is sending a seven-strong Urban Search And Rescue squad from Christchurch to Kaikoura by helicopter.