Emergency services have evacuated the area around Christchurch's tallest building - the Hotel Grand Chancellor - after engineers warned it was "on the point of collapse".
Fire Service national commander Mike Hall told journalists people had been told to move away from the 26-story building on Cashel Street, in the centre of quake-ravaged Christchurch.
Reports said the hotel had slumped in one corner, prompting fears that should it collapse it could destroy surrounding buildings.
"About half an hour ago (1330 NZ time) a general instruction was given to all emergency services people to move away from that building because there was some engineering indication that the building may collapse," Mr Hall said.
"The engineering advice is that it is on the point of collapse so we'll keep the collapse area clear around there and we'll have to see what happens over the next few hours and see if in fact it does collapse.
"If it doesn't and the aftershocks stop then we'll take some more engineering advice before we do anything else there."
The hotel is a Christchurch landmark and with all of its rooms located on the 15th floor and above, it offered panoramic views of the city and surrounds.
A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Christchurch yesterday at 12.51pm. There have been numerous strong aftershocks since. At least 75 people have died, with the toll expected to rise.