Large Earthquakes in Christchurch marks the beginning of Christmas Hammer in 2011
Large earthquakes have rattled Christchurch residents just two days from Christmas, a devastating reminder of the blow their city was dealt in February.
Dozens of people received minor injuries and three unoccupied buildings collapsed when two major quakes, measuring 5.8 and 6.0, hit the city on Friday afternoon.
They were centred offshore, between 10km and 20km east of the city, at depths between 6km and 10km, according to GNS Science.
Two lesser ones measured 5.3 and 5.0.
The swarm of quakes continued into the evening, adding stress for already quake-weary locals.
Last-minute Christmas shopping and travel was abandoned after widespread evacuations of shopping malls, buildings and Christchurch Airport, and roads around the city became congested as people rushed to get home.
Civil Defence was advising people not to travel unless it was essential, with restricted bus services operating to help people get home.
The CBD red zone, devastated by February's quake, had shut down, and while the ChristChurch Cathedral suffered more damage on Friday, other central city buildings had held up well, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton said.
Police warned people to stay away from suburbs in the hills, as slips and rocks crashed down following the quakes.
The eastern suburbs were again hit by significant liquefaction and flooding, which had seen many homes declared unsafe to live in back in February.
A partly demolished building in the central city had collapsed along with a vacant house in the suburb of Hillsborough and a red-stickered house in Oram Ave, New Brighton.
A stop bank along the Avon River had been damaged and sewage had flowed into the river, but there was no apparent damage to water infrastructure.
St John Ambulance says it received around 150 emergency calls and it attended treated about 60 people for incidents such as heart attacks, collapses and panic attacks.
Power company Orion was working to restore power on Friday night after 26,000 had their electricity cut.
Christchurch Airport was evacuated after the quake, but reopened about 5.20pm with a backlog of flights from around the country.
A welfare centre would open at Windsor School hall from 8pm.
The quakes rattled the fragile nerves of many Cantabrians, hoping for a Christmas free of tremors.
It also comes less than two weeks after the Christchurch City Council adopted a draft rebuild plan for the city, following the February quake.
Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button was adamant the quakes would not set back the city's recovery.
"Our hearts go out to the people of Christchurch tonight. We're just devastated that this has happened at this time of the year, right before Christmas," she said.
"We believe that this event will pass quickly and that we'll all be able to enjoy Christmas on Sunday."
Prime Minister John Key said he felt for the city."My heart goes out to the people of Christchurch and Canterbury at this time."