People in central Christchurch have been told to stay indoors after gunmen reportedly opened fire at two mosques and the main hospital in Christchurch.
Sources say nine people have been confirmed dead.
Stuff understands the emergency department at Christchurch Hospital has been cleared out. Hospital staff are expecting about 40 to 50 injured people, and private hospital Southern Cross has also been cleared to treat the injured.
A person inside Christchurch Hospital said shots had been fired there on Friday afternoon. Shooting has also been reported at the Masjid Al Noor on Deans Ave and the Linwood Masjid on Linwood Ave.
Police have urged anyone in central Christchurch to stay indoors and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.
St John said in a statement that it notified of a firearms incident in central Christchurch at 1.53pm Friday afternoon.
"We have approximately 20 emergency ambulances and operational vehicles at scene providing support and will continue to update you as information comes to hand."
A man, who would not give his name, said he was praying in the Deans Ave mosque when he heard shooting.
He managed to escape, but saw his wife lying dead on the footpath outside.
"My wife is dead," he said, wailing. His head was supported by other Muslim men who prayed for him.
Another man said he saw children being shot.
Dozens of people were shot by a man wearing military uniform, who emptied at least two magazines.
"There were bodies all over me."
A resident on Freyberg St said she heard "hundreds" of shots and it was "terrifying".
Muslim Association of Marlborough chairman Zayd Blissett said he found out about the shooting from a text sent by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) at 2.04pm, saying "50 shot" during Friday prayers in Christchurch.
"I'm just heartbroken. In fact I'm sitting here crying," he said.
"This is New Zealand. This can't happen here."
A man in the Deans Ave mosque at the time, who would not give his name, said there were "bodies all over me". He said the gunman came in with an automatic gun and emptied at least two magazines.
Ahmad Al-Mahmoud, 37, described the shooter as white-skinned, blond, quite short and wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. He and others broke a window in a door to escape from the mosque. Prayers started at 1.30pm and the gunman came in about 10 minutes later, when everyone was on their knees praying, he said.
The gunman let off dozens, if not hundreds of rounds, he said.
Police have cleared Cathedral Square, where thousands of children were rallying for action on climate change. Fifty to 60 children have been kept inside the Christchurch City Council building on Hereford St. They had been visiting the council as part of Friday's action against climate change. The council building has been placed in lockdown.
Deans Ave has been closed, while Linwood Ave has been closed between Aldwins Rd and Worcester St, and Brougham St (State Highway 76) has been closed between Antigua and Durham streets.
About 20 armed police have worked to clear buildings in Linwood, including Eastgate Mall, which will be closed for the rest of the day.
Four or five men with their hands on their heads were led by police from the Linwood mosque.
Mitch Redman said the men came out of the building on Aldwins Rd about 2.20pm.
Police carried out two or three children from the building and put them in a car, he said.
There was a heavy police presence in the area, he said.
A worker at the Z Linwood service station said he heard gunshots come from the direction of Eastgate Mall about 2pm.
Sheik Ali said his brother was inside and saw a gunman "open fire".
There were people on the ground, but no confirmed fatalities, Ali said.
"As a community we've never had an issue like this in New Zealand."
Linwood Dental Centre practice manager Janine Richmond said she heard about 20 gunshots come from the Linwood Mosque about 1.45pm.
She said armed offenders squad (AOS) members with dogs came in and searched the clinic, which is about 50 metres from the mosque, shortly after.
"They [AOS] have told us to stay here because it's not safe.
"We can't leave and we've been told to stay in a room and stay away from the windows."
Richmond said it appeared police had not found anyone responsible for the shooting.
MAN STARTED 'JUST KILLING PEOPLE'
The former president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury Mohammed Jama said a man with a gun went into the Deans Ave mosque about 1.40pm on Friday.
About 300 people were inside the mosque "and he started shooting all the people".
He saw about four people injured and two people lying on the ground. He did not know if they were alive or dead.
One man who was there at the time said a man came in with an automatic rifle and was "just killing people". He ran.
Another witness said the man was wearing a helmet.
"He had a big gun and a lot of bullets and he came through and started shooting like everyone in the mosque, like everywhere, and they have to smash the door and the glass from the window and from the small door to try and get out."
The witness said the man fired more than 50 times.
Ahmed Tani, of the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre, said he was walking to the mosque and was about 400 metres away when he heard many gunshots.
"I was really frightened," he said.
"I come from Somalia and the last time I heard the sound of gunfire was eight years ago.
"Then people were running towards me and shouting go, go, go."
Muhammad Nazir had attended an election meeting at the mosque and was praying when he heard shots fired.
He heard two different types of shots fired as people yelled out "help, help", he said.
He believed the shooter was outside the mosque firing into the building, he said.
He left the mosque but saw people inside being shot, he said.
Three or four people were lying on the ground outside the mosque, some of them women.
One man looked severely injured, he said.
The Bangladesh cricket team were in the mosque where shots were fired on Friday.
Cricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent Mohammad Isam posted a video to Twitter of the team rushing through Hagley Park away from the mosque.
Bangladesh are due to play New Zealand at Hagley Oval on Saturday. New Zealand Cricket has been contacted about if the game will still go ahead.
SCHOOLS, PUBLIC BUILDINGS IN LOCKDOWN
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said all Christchurch schools have been placed into lockdown. Tertiary institutes have also been locked down.
Parents of Christchurch Girls' students were sent text messages about 2.05pm, which said: "This is not an exercise."
The Canterbury District Health Board said the public should not attend Christchurch Hospital unless it is an emergency.
A spokeswoman said the board has activated its mass casualty plan and all appointments have been cancelled on Friday afternoon.
No staff or patients are to enter or leave the building.
The spokeswoman did not know how many patients were expected, adding it was an "evolving situation".
Christchurch Hospital, the nearby outpatients building, and Hillmorton and Princess Margaret hospitals are in lockdown.
The city's justice and emergency services precinct was placed in lockdown about 2.20pm with a warning on the public address system that staff and visitors should stay away from external windows and close blinds if possible. Armed police were reported outside the entrances.
"There are reports of active shooters in the Christchurch area," the announcement said.
District Court judges were away at a seminar on Friday and arrests were being handled by Justices of the Peace. That afternoon session was delayed, but the JPs remained at the court where the staff closed blinds, to try to get the arrests processed.
All of the city's Work and Income offices are also in lockdown.
A Christchurch Airport spokeswoman said the airport was operating as per normal but was liaising with police should that need to change. Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards said there had been no requests made for changes to the airspace over Christchurch at this stage.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been in New Plymouth making announcements, but has cancelled her diary for the rest of the day as she seeks more details on the incident.
Damn... it's getting scarier and scarier by the day.