There was no tsunami alert issued and the city appeared to have been spared major damage. One person was injured at a city mall and was taken to a hospital, and four people had to be rescued after being trapped by a rock fall, Christchurch police said in a statement.
But there were no immediate reports of serious injuries or widespread damage in the city, which is still recovering from a devastating February earthquake that killed 182 people and destroyed much of the downtown area.
The first 5.8-magnitude quake struck Friday afternoon, 26 kilometers north of Christchurch and 4 kilometers deep, the US Geological Survey said. Minutes later, a 5.3-magnitude aftershock hit, and about an hour after that, the city was shaken by another 5.8-magnitude temblor.
Both aftershocks were less than 5 kilometers deep. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue an alert. The city's airport was evacuated after the first quake and all city malls shut down as a precaution.
Warwick Isaacs, demolitions manager for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, said most buildings had been evacuated "as an emergency measure."
The area has recorded more than 7,000 earthquakes since a magnitude-7 quake rocked the city on September 4, 2010. That quake did not cause any deaths. Rock falls had occurred in one area and there was liquefaction when an earthquake forces underground water up through loose soil in several places, Isaacs told New Zealand's National Radio.