Most homes in Seddon in Marlborough have been damaged by the 6.6 quake, at least two severely. Part of a church roof also collapsed in the township and the rail bridge has slumped.
Civil Defence says most houses in Seddon have sustained some degree of damage but most of them are still habitable. The quake was centred just 10km south-east of Seddon.
Marlborough District Council spokesperson Rosie Bartlett says luckily no-one was in the two very badly damaged houses at the time.
"But we have reports of an awful lot of houses in Seddon sustaining some level of damage, particularly chimney and hot water cylinders but we won't know the full extent until the morning."
Seddon fire chief Keiron Hebberd says half the roof on a church collapsed.
At least 22 people were spending the night at an emergency welfare centre in the Seddon School hall because of the damage to their homes.
Civil Defence personnel say another 11 people told them they made their own arrangements rather than stay at the emergency centre.
Search and rescue teams and engineers checked properties in the township, where about 450 people live, for damage during the evening. More checks will be done on Saturday.
State Highway 1 is closed on either side of Seddon as the New Zealand Transport Agency checks bridges and roads for damage, while the rail bridge in the centre of the township has slumped.
Resident Laura Jean Kerslake is feeling lucky to have survived unharmed when her house began to fall apart around her. She told Checkpoint she was having a nap when the quake hit.
"It was just unbelievable, really. The whole house, I could just see the walls cracking basically in front of me. Stood in the doorway and half of the doorway was collapsing, so then went into the kitchen and ran outside and then the chimney came down right in front of me."
Ms Kerslake says her house is a writeoff.
In Blenheim, a six-storey building of similar design to the CTV building that collapsed in the Christchurch earthquake has not suffered any structural damage, although some gib lining came off interior walls.
Porse Building owner John Smithies says it was evacuated following the 6.6 quake but was given the all-clear by engineers after they inspected it.
More cracks on dam
An earth dam near Seddon that was damaged in the July quake survived the latest jolt but its owner says it has more cracking.
The dam was in the process of being emptied over fears it might break.
Owner Dick Bell, who was on the dam when Friday's quake hit, says engineers are assessing it but he has already released more water.
Mr Bell says it's less dangerous than it was during the first quake because the water level was already down by a metre.