Two people have been killed in a powerful earthquake which struck New Zealand on Sunday (13 November).

Witnesses have described the terrifying scene after the 7.8-magnitude quake struck the South Island, 57 miles northeast of Christchurch, at 11.02am GMT (0.02am, 14 November).

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key confirmed the two deaths, but more fatalities are expected to be confirmed after daybreak tomorrow. A tsunami warning has also been issued with waves feared to reach 5m high.

Michael Morgan was one of the people to be caught up in the chaos as residents of the east coast of New Zealand were told to evacuate their homes to search for higher ground.

"It was horrible," he said. "It started off with just a little bit of a roll and then it must have lasted about 40, 45 seconds, and then there was a jolt.

"I was trying to get up, but because I think the ground was moving like that [rolling gestures] we couldn't do anything."

British backpacker Ellie Crook is travelling across New Zealand and was in a Wellington hostel when the room started to shake.

In videos uploaded to Twitter, she said: "Having never felt an earthquake before I originally thought the guy in the bunk above me was thrashing and moving in his sleep or something.

"It wasn't until I looked across at my other roommate and saw the look of shock on her face that I realised it was an earthquake."

She added: "I tried to get off the bed to walk to the door frame and the floor was rolling, I could see down the corridor and it all seemed to rock from side to side.

"It just didn't seem to stop and my heart was pounding. I could see people down the corridor looking so scared. Then when it finally stopped we legged it out the building."

Following the initial quake, numerous after shakes were experienced and some measure as high as magnitude five.

Numerous images of the destruction circulated on social media. Some showed roads that were ripped apart and bottles of wine which had been smashed off shelves.

Casualties were also been confirmed in an earlier press conference, but the number is yet unknown.

Civil defence minister Gerry Brownlee said: "There are some reports of casualties in the Kaikoura area, but exactly what the extent of that is not yet reported.

"Property damage is pretty much as you see and of course will become clearer, I suspect with daylight.

"A number of buildings will need to be assessed before they can be reoccupied."