14 Nov 2016

What we know so far about the Hanmer Springs earthquake

5:21 pm on 14 November 2016

New Zealand has been shaking since 12.02am, when a devastating earthquake struck near the Canterbury town of Hanmer Springs. Here is what has happened since then.


Road damage near Kaikoura.

Road damage near Kaikoura. Photo: @lou_gordongreen/Twitter


There are new updates coming through, especially about the situation in Kaikoura, which has been cut off by road since the big shake. To keep updated on the latest, check the RNZ live blog.

The initial 7.5 magnitude earthquake has been followed by scores of aftershocks, including more than 30 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or stronger.

Brace yourself.

Victoria University seismologist John Townend said the aftershocks would probably continue for months.

It was likely they would become smaller in magnitude and less frequent overtime than the original quake, but that isn’t guaranteed.

GNS science said there had been about 250 aftershocks since the massive shake just after midnight, with 33 of them above magnitude 5, and three of magnitude 6 and above.

Two people have died.

Two fatalities have been confirmed. One person died in the collapse of an historic homestead in Kaikoura and another from a heart attack in Mt Lyford, north of Christchurch.

It's still unclear how many people have been injured in the quake.


A 2.5 metre tsunami was recorded at Kaikoura and smaller surges hit Christchurch and Wellington.

In the early hours of this morning, thousands of people were warned to leave areas along New Zealand’s east coast, from Dunedin to Hawke’s Bay and in the Chatham Islands.

People headed to higher ground, causing gridlock at lookouts around Wellington.

The risk was real. Weatherwatch.co.nz reports that Kaikoura recorded waves of 2.5 metres, Christchurch recorded one metre and Wellington half-a-metre.

A tsunami warning was still in place this afternoon, but has been downgraded. The advice is that if you’re anywhere between Banks Peninsula and Wellington, you should stay out of the water and away from the beach.

Kaikoura is damaged and cut off.

With the quake hitting near Hanmer Springs, it was here and the nearby east coast town of Kaikoura that faced some of the worst damage, with the latter completely cut off due to the extensive damage.

With extra resources, rescue helicopters, additional paramedics and an Urban Search and Rescue team sent their way, the damage to Kaikoura’s homes and roads has been the source of some of today’s most shocking images.


Prime Minister John Key and Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee helicoptered to Kaikoura today for a firsthand look at the situation there. The military is expected to fly in supplies tomorrow.

Wellington is eerily quiet after Civil Defence warned everyone to stay out of the CBD until tonight.


The BNZ Centre and TSB Arena have reportedly been damaged. There are other reports cracks in apartment buildings, and fallen masonry and glass around the city. The port is also looking in bad shape:

Wellington mayor Justin Lester has told RNZ that Wellington “will be open for business tomorrow”, though Panama and Featherston streets will be cordoned off as the clean-up continues.

He’s expecting buses to be back operating, along with some train services.

Cook Strait ferry sailings have been cancelled due to damage to link bridges at both the Picton and Wellington terminals, while the interisland ferry Kaiarahi has finally been able to berth and unload its 20 passengers.

Thieves made a bad night even worse for this family.

In Christchurch, burglars raided four properties after the quake, Stuff reports.

One of those homes belonged to Melissa and Matt Mill and their two daughters, who had evacuated after a tsunami warning about 2.30am.

Their house was ransacked and a $5000 listening device used by one of their daughters, who has a disability, was stolen along with electronics and Matt Mill’s work truck.

Thousands of people had their power cut by the quake ...

With road closures and aftershocks still making waves, efforts to restore power have been waylaid, and though houses in Kaikoura and Hamner Springs have seen electricity return, 1200 properties in Culverden and Cheviot areas remain without.

In Marlborough, around 1000 people lost power, as did nearly 5000 households in the Wellington region and 1800 on the West Coast. Thirty thousand homes across Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu and Wairarapa lost power which has been slowly restored throughout the day.

Phone networks across the South Island were affected, with Kaikoura and Blenheim facing the most significant connection problems. Spark have organised for staff to be flown to the affected areas, however access to landline, broadband and mobile services, including emergency operator services, may not return for sometime yet.

… and water is an issue for others.

Water safety is also a concern in the aftermath of the quake and residents of North Canterbury and Raglan are being urged to boil or treat all drinking water. People in Havelock and Picton, meanwhile, have been asked to conserve water for drinking due to power cuts and leaks in pumping stations and reservoirs.

The sky lit up with blue and white lights during the earthquake.

These lights were seen above Christchurch before and after the February 2011 earthquake and again last night over Wellington.

Scientists writing in a 2014 edition of Seismological Research Letters, attribute the lights to an electric charge caused by the tearing apart of the Earth's tectonic plates.

Known as earthquake lights, the phenomenon has been reported for hundreds of years by witnesses in a number of forms including lights running like snakes along the ground and others flickering up from the ground like flames.

The lights occur only in continental rift earthquakes, such as the one experienced in Christchurch, which make up just 5 percent of recorded tremors.

There are reports of a man seeing the lights two hours before the L'Aquila earthquake in Italy in 2009 and rushing his family outside to safety.

Researchers hope the lights might act as an early warning system.

Richie McCaw flies in rescuers and other acts of human kindness.

Faced with disaster Kiwis stepped up to help one another through.

Strangers offered one another food and comfort; Parliament opened up its ground floor for stranded Wellingtonians to take shelter; and ex-All Black captain Richie McCaw proved that he hadn’t been kidding about becoming a commercial helicopter pilot by flying rescue teams to Kaikoura.


But if you’re in the areas worst hit by the quake brace, yourself for some bad weather.


MetService says this is coming your way:


> To stay updated with the latest on the earthquake’s aftermath, check the RNZ live blog.