New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is calling for tough new laws around looting after three houses were burgled in the aftermath of this morning's earthquake.
Hundreds of Christchurch residents fled their homes when a tsunami warning was issued following the 7.5-magnitude quake 20km south-east of Hanmer Springs.
As of 9am, Christchurch police had received three reports of burglaries, which "appear to have occurred while people were evacuated following the earthquakes," said Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price.
The couple have two daughters and the youngest has muscular dystrophy. A work truck and $5000 hearing device relied upon by their disabled 12-year-old daughter were stolen, as well as their television and an Xbox.
Peters called on the Government to introduce laws which took a hard line on looting during civil emergencies.
"Parliament, when it resumes tomorrow, should condemn these acts, and agree to pass legislation that will deliver a sentence that will make anyone else, when tempted, think twice," he said.
"These individuals are preying on others during periods of extreme stress and tragedy ... that anyone would rob others at a time of such crisis is evil."
Peters said police should be free to concentrate on the emergency effort.
"Their valuable work is diverted by such selfish acts. Looting occurred at the time of the Christchurch earthquakes, too, and, to be fair, we Parliamentarians should have done something about it.
"Let's make a commitment to do something."
The Mill family left their Bower Ave home at 2am and returned five hours later to find it ransacked.
Melissa Mill said police had been alerted but due to the situation they said it could be two days before anyone could get to the home.
"We took our family away to be safe and came back to all of this ... it's just devastating."
Price said: "If people witness crime or are concerned about suspicious behaviour we encourage them to follow the normal processes and contact police immediately."
"It is extremely disappointing that in a time when people are facing a traumatic event, others decide to take advantage like this."
He said the fear of being looted should not trump personal safety when it came to returning home.
Chris Lynch of Newstalk ZB spoke to two people whose homes were looted as they evacuated the area.
A Give A Little page set up for the Mill family had raised more than $8000 as of 2.30pm.
•Police are looking for a silver Mazda BT50, registration EPP79 with black roof racks in relation to the burglary of the Mill family's home. Contact the Christchurch police immediately on 03 363 7400.