A Christchurch family who fled their home after the large earthquake on Monday morning returned home just hours later to find they'd been robbed.
Their house was broken into and thousands of dollars' worth of items were stolen.
"They've just ransacked the house, it's horrible, it's terrible," says mother Melissa Mill.
"[We're] pretty shaken, pretty disgusted, disheartened."
The stolen items include a special $5000 hearing device for their youngest daughter, Aleisha.
"It'll be hopeless to anybody because it's set up for Aleisha only," says Ms Mill. "It's highly important for learning and her education."
Twelve-year-old Aleisha has muscular dystrophy, a hereditary condition marked by progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles.
"I feel depressed and sad and angry," she says.
Ms Mill, her husband and two daughters had left to seek safety after warnings of a potential tsunami.
The police have assured locals burglars will be "dealt with" when caught.
"These burglaries will be investigated rigorously and those responsible will be held to account where appropriate," says Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price.
There have been 19 reports of burglaries since midnight, at homes and businesses.
"This sort of offending really scrapes the bottom of the barrel, especially for Cantabrians who have endured so much heartache in similar circumstances over the last five years."
New Zealand First is calling for the Government to announce new laws with powerful sentencing for looters during times of civil disaster.
"These individuals are preying on others during periods of extreme stress and tragedy," says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Winston Peters.
"Police time is being wasted chasing looters when they should be free to concentrate on the emergency effort. Their valuable work is diverted by such selfish acts.
"That anyone would rob others at a time of such crisis is evil."
The 7.5 earthquake struck north Canterbury at 12:02am on Monday, killing at least two and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes.