A couple have told how they ran for their lives as an earthquake caused cliffs to collapse yards from where they were having a Valentine’s Day picnic.

NZ Earthquake

Emma Russell and her boyfriend were enjoying a romantic day out when the 5.7 magnitude quake hit the Christchurch area in New Zealand at lunchtime on Sunday (just after midnight in the UK).

The pair were at Godley Heads when the cliffs started collapsing into the sea around 50 metres (164ft) from where they were sitting.

Ms Russell told The Press newspaper: “It literally sounded like dynamite just went off.

“You just heard all the cliffs give way around us, never sprinted so quickly in my life.”

The couple – among some 30 people at the tourist spot – had originally planned to sit on the cliff edge but changed their mind at the last minute, she said.

The collapse, which was captured on video, sent a huge cloud of dust across the bay at Sumner.

No serious injuries were reported and there was no major damage to Christchurch, which was devastated by a 2011 earthquake that killed 200 people.

Police said some people were evacuated from buildings after the latest quake, and there were some reports of damage from liquefaction – when an earthquake causes loose sand and silt saturated with water to behave like liquid.

The epicentre was nine miles (15km) east of Christchurch and at a shallow depth of nine miles and there were more than 40 aftershocks, the country’s seismological body Geonet said.

Christchurch City Council said cliffs collapsed in several places along the coast.

The city’s mayor Lianne Dalziel said: “Obviously with a 5.7 magnitude earthquake so close to the eastern coast of Christchurch its certainly been a big shock for the city, a set back in terms of people’s confidence and feeling of security.

“Our city is stronger than it was five years ago. There are going to be a lot of people out there feeling very vulnerable.”