Just before 1 p.m. local time, a tremor struck the country's South Island.
The earthquake was the most recent in a string of big tremors that have struck in recent months.
A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the same region in September, but no one was hurt.

The first 6.3-magnitude quake was followed by a series of aftershocks, according to the US Geological Survey, and was part of an aftershock sequence after a 7.0-magnitude quake last September. 

Mr. Carter stated, "There is more severe damage to buildings than there was after the original earthquake."
The tremor on Tuesday was centered approximately six miles from downtown Christchurch and was only three miles deep, making it potentially more damaging.

Several news agencies reported widespread devastation in the nearby village of Lyttleton, which was closest to the epicenter of the quake, although no pictures from the scene were immediately available.

"The earthquake itself was extremely severe, with a lot of movement," said Jason Tweedie, a 40-year-old Christchurch resident who was seated in his four-wheel-drive at the time of the quake.
"It felt like ten people were shaking the side of it at the same time, since there was so much energy." 

Mr. Tweedie said the tremor poured hundreds of gallons of water and silt into the streets, and the road in his coastal suburb of New Brighton looked to open up and swallow multiple cars in some places.