It has been confirmed that two people have died following the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the South Island near Hanmer Springs just after midnight.
At the Civil Defence bunker just moments ago, Prime Minister John Key stated that one person was found dead amongst the rubble of a historic homestead in Kaikoura. The second person suffered a heart attack due to the significance of the quake.
When asked if there were more than two deceased, Key said more fatalities had not been reported or confirmed.
Key says he, alongside acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, will visit Kaikoura and surrounding areas to assess the extent of the damage and to provide support and assistance where necessary.
As daylight approaches, Civil Defence will spend the day assessing the most affected areas - the East Coast of the South Island and Kaikoura.
Earlier this morning a tsunami warning had been issued to parts of the country. Civil Defence has just stated that the tsunami threat has been downgraded. People in the green and white areas on the map below can return home.
Civil Defence states that a beach and marine threat is still expected in the green area. Areas under ‘Marine and Beach Threat’ can expect unusually strong currents and unpredictable water flows near the shore. This means a threat to beach, harbour, estuary and small boat activities. The severity of currents and changing water flows will vary within a particular coastal area and over the period this warning is in effect.
"The Chatham Islands and the region between Blenheim and Banks Peninsula is still prone to a marine and land threat, and future maximum wave amplitude of approx. 1-3 metres can still possibly be expected to occur. Listen to local authorities for appropriate response actions."
People in coastal areas are being advised to do the following;
1. Stay out of the water (sea, rivers and estuaries, including boating activities)
2. Stay off beaches and shore areas
3. Do not go sightseeing
4. Share this information with family, neighbours and friends
5. Listen to the radio and/or TV for updates
6. Follow instructions of local civil defence authorities
7. If beach threat is forecasted for your area, take appropriate evasive action
Frequent updates are provided on the Civil Defence Facebook Page.