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A dairy owner shaken awake by yesterday's quake opened his shop early to give away milk and sell batteries below cost to needy customers.

Suresh Patel of P&P Dairy in Hoon Hay went to open the shop as aftershocks rippled through Christchurch.

Local woman Shirley Homer, who was caught without batteries for a torch during the power cut that followed the earthquake, said she went to the dairy expecting prices to be at a premium.

Instead she was impressed to find Patel was giving his stock away.

"He would only take $2 for these two big batteries, and he gave the people behind me two bottles of milk for free," she said.

"He told them, 'Take whatever you need'. He's a gentleman, he will slip people a loaf of bread or give them some sweeties."

Patel said it had been a busy day.

"We decided we can help the people," he said.

The dairy had run out of water, milk and batteries by 8am.