Rescue efforts continue throughout the night and there are fears that the death toll will rise further by daybreak. New Zealand media reports that people can be heard shouting for help from underneath the rubble, and the Prime Minister has remarked that today's quake is New Zealand's darkest day. The worst earthquake to ever hit the island nation destroyed the city of Napier on the North Island in 1931.
The earthquake in Christchurch struck at lunchtime, when the city centre was busy with workers on lunchbreak, school children and shoppers.
Apparently, the epicentrum was located close to the city in Lyttelton Harbour, only 5km under the earth's surface. Although this quake was less powerful than the earthquake that hit Christchurch in September 2010, it was much closer to the city centre and at the busiest time of the day, which probably contributed greatly to the loss of lives. The September earthquake happened around 4am, when the streets were deserted.
Christchurch airport has been closed except for emergency transport. Already, hundreds of Kiwis are planning to travel to Christchurch by any means necessary - some even coming from Auckland on the North Island - to offer their support and help with the rescue efforts.
UPDATE on travellers in Christchurch:
Scott T. informed that his parents, visiting Christchurch from the UK, have gotten in contact with him and are safe.
Aucklander Simon B. is still trying to track down is uncle Gerry. Gerry has been in contact with the family after the initial shock but is now missing. Gerry is described as a diabetic, living by himself and not in the best of health. If anyone has heard about a man called Gerry living on Cowes Street, Avondale, Christchurch, or knows where he is, please get in touch, as his family is very worried!