Christchurch earthquake
© EPA
A taxi is covered in rubble on Manchester St, Christchurch
A massive earthquake caused the ground beneath the New Zealand city of Christchurch to shift up to 11 feet.

The magnitude 7.1 quake on Friday night in New Zealand was larger than the one that killed 200,000 people in Haiti this year and appeared to have opened a new fault line.

Mark Quigley, a geology professor leading a team investigating the cause of the quake, said: "One side of the earth has lurched to the right."

Much of the centre of Christchurch remained sealed off and under curfew for a second night on Sunday.

More than 500 buildings have been badly damaged. Two men were seriously hurt by falling masonry but there have been no reports of deaths.

Prime Minister John Key said it was a miracle no one was killed.

Part of the reason the city escaped major injuries was because the quake happened at 4.30am, Mr Key said.

"If this had happened five hours earlier or five hours later (when many more people were in the city), there would have been absolute carnage in terms of human life," he said.

Prime Minister Key, who flew to Christchurch to inspect the damage, said the city "looks like something off a movies set," with wrecked buildings, buckled roads, broken water mains and sewage systems and some flooding caused by broken water pipes.

New Zealand sits above an area where two tectonic plates collide. The country records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year - but only about 150 are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 a year do any damage.