With communications cut off, emergency response teams were flying by helicopter to the region at the epicentre of the magnitude-7.8 quake, about 90 kilometres north-east of Christchurch in the South Island, amid reports of injuries and collapsed buildings.

The quake was centered 46km from the town of Amberley with about 2,000 people, and 70km from the town of Kaiapoi with 10,000 residents, according to the USGS. The tremor had a shallow depth of 5 km.

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