|Rescue workers search for survivors in Christchurch. Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images|
A large 6.3 magnitude earthquake has struck Christchurch leaving badly damaged buildings in the city centre and reports of extensive casualties.
It is the second quake to hit New Zealand in five months. A 7.1 magnitude quake caused extensive damage in the city last September.
First photographs carried on news websites show badly damaged buildings around Cathedral Square, one of the city’s tourist draw cards.The cathedral itself was extensively damaged.
There were reports of people being trapped in buildings across the city and bus passengers were reported to be trapped under falling debris.
The airport was closed after its tower collapsed.
Christchurch YHA reported to be badly damaged
The YHA building in Christchurch was badly damaged in the earthquake that struck the city today.
Bodies were seen being removed from the building, local media reported.
Early reports indicate IHG’s three hotels in Christchurch have suffered damage in this afternoon’s earthquake.
All guests and staff at Crowne Plaza Christchurch, Holiday Inn City Centre Christchurch and Holiday Inn on Avon Christchurch have been evacuated.
All three hotels are now closed until such time as a full damage assessment can be undertaken.
Hospitals around the South Island of New Zealand have been cleared to take the earthquake injured.
St John's Ambulance had run out of ambulances and was using four-wheel drives to get the injured out.
Defence forces have been called in to assist with the earthquake recovery.
Christchurch Cathedral, the heart of the city, has largely collapsed.
Dean of Cathedral Peter Beck said they tried to get out whom they could but it was now in the hands of emergency services. "It doesn't look good".
A police statement said the earthquake struck at 12.51pm local time on Tuesday.
The statement went on, “Multiple fatalities have been reported at several locations in the central city, including two buses crushed by falling buildings.
“Other reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central area and persons reported trapped in buildings.
“Christchurch Hospital is not evacuated and is in operation. No injuries reported at Christchurch Airport."