that opened up in roads.
One person was believed to have died at a homestead that collapsed at the town, while police were trying to reach the scene of a fatality at a remote property north of Christchurch.
As hundreds of people prepared to spend the night in evacuation centres, rescue workers were facing deteriorating weather conditions.
Heavy rain increased the risk of more landslides and strong winds made clean-up work hazardous.
The treacherous conditions temporarily blocked the Clarence River with debris, which then shifted to release a “wall of water” downstream and force more evacuations.
The earthquake struck early yesterday and was 23 kilometres deep, the US Geological Survey said.
It was felt across most of the country, causing severe shaking in the capital Wellington, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) away.
The quake ignited painful memories for residents in nearby Christchurch, which was devastated five years ago by a 6.3 tremor that killed 185 people.
New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, which form part of the socalled “Ring of Fire”, and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year. –
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key (L) speaks to locals in Kaikoura on the South Island’s east coast yesterday.
Rescue workers inspect buildings in Wellington after the earthquake yesterday.