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Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has warned there will be bad news to come out of today's 6.3 earthquake.
"I'm deeply, deeply concerned about lives,'' he told Radio New Zealand.
They had lost a lot of communication, and water was coming up through the streets from pipes, he said.
"Today is simply about a rescue operation, we need to get the extent of the damage clear, we need to get into buildings.''
Mr Parker said people were very frightened but they needed to keep the roads clear.
"Our roads are now our lifeline.
"Don't use the phones unless you have to, those phones are also our lifeline.''
He was not able to declare a civil emergency yet.
He was thrown over in the building he was in when the earthquake struck, he said
"I looked out over the city once I got up and I could see clouds of dust from buildings collapsing. I could hear screams from streets.''