A top level meeting is set to get underway at 9am to work out what is needed to help those affected by this morning's severe earthquake that has isolated parts of the South Island.

Prime Minister John Key this morning said the officials group would meet in Wellington this morning and advise the government of the latest damage assessment and summary of what is known.

After that both the Prime Minister and Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Gerry Brownlee would head to the quake struck regions to see the damage first-hand.

He described the situation as broadly under control.


"It's not a national emergency. In terms of dodging a bullet I think there'll be much more damage than what we know," he told NewstalkZB Mike Hosking show.

"One of the problems is we haven't had perfect information from quake-affected areas."

He said it was likely there would be widespread structural damage across the lower North and upper South Island.

"It'll be more than we think," he said.

He said there were no details on the number of people injured but it had proved tragic for two families.

"In terms of our impact of human life our hearts go out to the family of those who have lost their lives."

Key urged people to get out and check to see neighbours were safe.