Aftershocks rocking Christchurch have damaged an earthquake welfare centre and forced authorities to close it this morning.
Canterbury residents were kept awake by a series of strong aftershocks including one with a magnitude of 5.2 shortly before 11.30pm, one of 5.4 soon after, and another of 5.4 around 3.30am today.
The 5.4 quake's epicentre was 20km south-east of Darfield and had a focal depth of 15km.
It has been described as "slightly damaging" in Christchurch and had already been reported by over 400 people by 8am on the GNS website.
The aftershocks have forced authorities to close the Burnside High School centre where 71 people stayed last night. They will be moved to another centre at Addington Raceway, a statement from the Christchurch City Council said.
More people have been turning to the welfare centres for help. Last night 321 people stayed in the three centres across Christchurch - up from about 250 people the night before.
Officials are worried that the biggest aftershock has not yet struck, and schools will remain closed until tomorrow as Civil Defence and Ministry of Education staff assess the safety of buildings.
Christchurch Domestic Airport was closed for over two hours this morning after cracks appeared in the walls.
Airport spokesman Gareth Owen said the airport usually opened at about 5am but with the aftershocks overnight, engineers were called in to check the safety of the building.
Mr Owen said there was "minor surface cracking" in the airport. He said it was deemed safe and was opened at 7.30am.
Inner city cordons
The aftershocks have meant the inner-city cordon that had kept the public out of the city centre could not be reduced to the extent initially planned, Christchurch City Council rescue manager John Buchan said.
But they were relaxed at 8am, with Cathedral Square and Colombo Street reopening, he said.
"This is a major step toward freeing access to the city," Mr Buchan said.
There will be full access for building owners and the public in this area, except where damaged and unsafe buildings had been taped off.
"We do however urge that people exercise caution as aftershocks continue," Mr Buchan said.
The area that remains cordoned off is bounded by Worcester St, St Asaph St, Colombo St (with the side streets to its east remaining out of bounds) and Madras St.
Entry is through checkpoints at Colombo and Lichfield Streets and Madras and Cashel Street intersections.
Police said a record would be kept of everyone who entered the areas.
"This is so that we know who is in these areas at all times, with the continuing after shocks there is still a risk to those entering the cordoned area and as such we need to know who is in there should we need to evacuate that area," said Inspector John Price.
Returning to aftershocks
A mother and son had to flee their crumbling store during a powerful aftershock in the city yesterday, and other business owners were heartbroken after seeing their wrecked properties for the first time.
"I forgot everything else and just ran for it," said Rose Lennon, who owned secondhand clothing store La Boutique with son Myles.
"There were huge cracks down the walls and there was dust and water coming down. The whole place was shaking. It was scary."
The pair were in the brick building on the corner of Westminster and Cranford Sts in St Albans when the 4.5-magnitude aftershock hit about 12.35pm.
Ms Lennon said she was in the shop "grabbing whatever I could" when the shaking began.
Myles Lennon said it was "really, really intense. I had a real sense of urgency come over just to get out."
Emergency services were called to the scene. The building was condemned and demolition soon got under way.
"It's just heartbreaking," said Ms Lennon. "Today I should be serving customers. Instead I am sitting on the street watching it being ripped down."
The lucky escape highlighted the dangers severely damaged buildings still pose to Christchurch residents and business owners after Saturday's earthquake.
The Government says about 100,000 of the 160,000 homes in the Christchurch, Selwyn and Waimakariri areas were damaged in the 7.1-magnitude shake.
Last night, more residents were moving valuables out of Seabreeze Close, in the suburb of Bexley.
Every house on the street - featured in the Herald yesterday - has been deemed a write-off by residents, and they were racing to remove household goods amid rumours of an impending evacuation.
The street is still without power and water, and mounds of sand and mud cover the front lawns and driveways of the properties.
Christchurch remains in a state of emergency today. The city council is planning to re-assess the situation at midday tomorrow.
Surveying the damage
Last night, police said engineers had surveyed 550 buildings in the city centre.
Five per cent were deemed unstable and unable to be entered, 16 per cent could be entered to check for damage, and the rest were sound.
Business owners had their first chance yesterday to see the multimillion-dollar damage to their properties and get inside their premises to salvage what they could.
But central-city workers were kept outside barricades manned by police and soldiers from Burnham military camp, south of Christchurch, who have been called in to help police.
Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said the loss of trading was the last thing the businesses needed after a tough winter.
Many did not know if their insurance would cover their losses.
"For some who have been struggling, it may be just a little bit too much for them."
Roger Kelso was allowed past the barricades yesterday to check on the jewellery store he has owned for 40 years, and found it surrounded by bricks, concrete and steel from the collapsed facade on the storey above.
The sight left him "pretty devastated".
"It's something I never imagined would happen. But it's happened and we've got to get on. We'll have to find other premises. You've got to look to the future."
Mr Kelso does not know what he will find inside his premises when the debris is cleared.
But he is pleased the quake did not strike while the store was open and staff and customers were in it.
"All the damage in the world you can take, but one death is something different."
Craig Webster was yesterday inspecting 15 buildings he owns in the central city.
Four were seriously damaged, and one century-old seven-level building with about 15 tenants was "looking very sick".
"These are heritage buildings, and a lot of them are going to be gone," Mr Webster said.
"We are insured, but we are unsure how it's all going to work out. We understand the loss-of-rents [insurance] only lasts for 12 months, so what do we do after that?"
Trials in Christchurch courts have been postponed, because court staff expect those involved will be unable to attend.
But public transport resumes today and bus services will run outside the city centre.
When NZS.com director Mark Rocket arrived at his flooded office with employees to salvage what they could, water was dripping onto desks and computers from broken sprinkler pipes.
"It's horrific. I couldn't believe it," Mr Rocket said. "But there was no structural damage, at least, so we could get in to pick up the pieces.
"It'll take weeks, probably months, to get back to normal."
He said the company, a NZ internet search provider, would continue operating on back-up servers, with employees working from home.
"I just don't think about it too much," Mr Rocket said. "In a few months I'll reflect on it. Right now it's just a matter of doing what you can."
The company's chief executive, Gary Jensen, said dealing with personal and work emergencies after the quake had been difficult.
"I was busy shovelling at my mother-in-law's house, which was completely destroyed, and now I'm here."
Rod Hair's 130-year-old two-storey building lost its facade, and bricks from the building next door were piled on the roof.
"So we are trying to get these bricks off and put tarpaulins down ... If it rains, the water will pour through."
R&R Sport manager Graeme Allen was clearing rubble from his crumbling frontage.
Broken glass and collapsed balconies made the situation look dire, he said, but "internally, it's pretty good".
100,000 - Number of homes damaged by Saturday's quake
160,000 - Number of homes in the region
431 - Homes likely to be demolished
16,000 - Number of years since faultline last ruptured
$5 million - Government donation to the mayoral fund
3500 - Homes still without power
Map: Where the land shook
KEY: (How to read the map)
Red markers: Aftershocks on Saturday
Blue markers: Aftershocks on Sunday
Yellow markers: Aftershocks on Monday
Green markers: Aftershocks today
View Christchurch earthquake: Where the land shook in a larger map
- With NZPA and NZHERALD STAFF