In the minutes after Tuesday's devastating earthquake, the people of Santa Maria Ave, Redcliffs, gathered at the top of the street and hugged and cried.

Still in shock from the violent shaking, they scrambled from their shattered homes and sought comfort from one another - many will never be able to live in their homes again.

One side of the street has several homes cracked beyond repair. Others have been almost split in half and are now in danger of falling down on to a street below.

Pets are missing from many houses but by last night were slowly returning to their owners.

Some homeowners were still waiting for visits from the Earthquake Commission assessors relating to the magnitude-7.1 September 4 shake.

But ironically, EQC staff were in Santa Maria Ave when the 6.3 aftershock hit and took one shaken woman, Carole Boudreau, to a welfare centre while she waited for her husband Dave, to come home.

Before she did, though, she joined neighbours for an impromptu gathering. "We all came together for a group hug on the corner."

No one was home at the Potts' house when the quake struck. Part of the daughter's room fell down on to the garage underneath, and the house started to slip away from the hill towards the bank where a retaining wall has crashed down.

Jane Potts was driving home and saw the tiles missing from her roof but had no idea of the extent of the damage.

The first she knew of it was when she met anxious neighbours near the house who were worried she could be trapped inside.

She nearly was. "You could say Trade Me saved my life ... Someone was buying something off me from Trade Me. They were on time and I went out after they'd been."

Otherwise, she would have still been waiting at the house, probably at the clothesline area that was flattened by part of a bedroom falling down.

The Potts won't live there again but don't know where they will settle - it may not be in Christchurch. "Somewhere in New Zealand ... The kids are keen to leave."

Ian and Anne Harris are another couple who may never again live in their home of 23 years where they raised their children. When the Herald visited yesterday they were recovering as many possessions as possible.

They were standing in their near-new kitchen - only two years old - when the quake hit.

"We were holding on to the side of the bench. Everything was thrown on to the floor. You just knew it was major," Mrs Harris said.

The kitchen bench sank and ceiling tiles rained down. In their daughter's old room a wall came completely away; her wedding dress was rescued from hanging out the side of the gaping hole.

Mr Harris said they were pooling resources with others on the street but had spent a night in their car.

Their side of Santa Maria Ave appeared to have fared the worst.

The land has not only cracked open but has slumped forward and subsided.

On the other side, the houses do not appear to have suffered structural damage and their owners are hopeful they will be able to stay.

Rob Bingham is one. The house's interior appears to have been turned upside down, but there seems to be no major damage.