Update: last updated at 1848 Wednesday, NZ time
Australians in Christchurch are being advised by the Red Cross to head for the NZ capital, Wellington.
DFAT is not currently providing any recommendations for Australians in Christchurch on its website other than to telephone its Australia-based hotline, but has set up a crisis centre in the Copthorne Commodore Hotel in Christchurch, near Christchurch Airport -- which has now re-opened for international flights.
Australian Business Traveller spoke to several representatives at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Consular Operations Centre and the High Commission in Wellington this morning to gather further information.
DFAT and the High Commission confirmed that an Australian crisis centre has been set up near Christchurch Airport at the Copthorne Commodore Hotel at 449 Memorial Avenue -- not the Copthornes on Colombo Street or Durham Street within Christchurch's closed "four avenues" central business district.
A High Commission official in Wellington tells us that Australians who have lost their passport in the earthquake can travel to Australia without it if they have existing tickets. The official recommends arriving early at the airport, where passengers without passports will be asked questions to verify their identity. Christchurch Airport has confirmed the process, directing Australians without passports to the High Commission desks in the International Arrivals Hall.
(International passport holders who are not Australian permanent residents are being directed to the Burnside High Welfare Centre, approximately 3 km southeast of the airport along Memorial Avenue.)
Christchurch authorities state: "Travellers not holding tickets for flights today but wishing to leave Christchurch are being assisted by Civil Defence. People in this situation should make their way to collection points at the Burnside High School welfare centre, corner of Memorial Avenue and Greers Road or the welfare centre at North Hagley Park. Please note, do not go to the airport directly if you wish to be on these flights. Please go only to the collection points."
Consular assistance from the Australian High Commission will be provided at the Copthorne Commodore Hotel in Christchurch and at the High Commission, 72 Hobson Street, Wellington.
The High Commission can help Australians who escaped from their Christchurch homes or hotels without passports, funds or travel documentation and do not have existing bookings on flights to Australia.
Domestic flights from Christchurch to Wellington and Auckland have been running since 0800 NZ time Wednesday morning.
In Wellington, the i-SITE tourism office is coordinating emergency accommodation from its location in Civic Square in Wellington's CBD, on the corner of Victoria and Wakefield Streets. Local authorities are expecting "hundreds" of arrivals into the NZ capital.
Many overseas visitors to the Christchurch area have been flown to Wellington this morning. To locate colleagues, family and friends, Wellington authorities are recommending that people from overseas contact their Embassy or High Commission in Wellington, and have provided a list of contact details.
Read more comprehensive coverage of the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, plus authoritative advice for travellers in the area and overseas.
- Christchurch airport is open for some international flights, plus arrangements are in place for Australians who have lost passports.
- Many extra flights and special fares have been arranged by Air New Zealand.
- We spoke to the Australian High Commission and DFAT to get advice for Australians in Christchurch who need consular assistance.
- Airlines have waived change fees for many tickets to and from Christchurch: full details and how to get the fees waived.