Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Strong earthquakes up to 6.7 rock southern New Zealand

AFP , WELLINGTON

A series of strong earthquakes measuring up to 6.7 on the Richter scale shook southern New Zealand early yesterday but caused minimal damage, authorities said.

The first quake, measuring 6.7, struck at 1:29am about 60km off the coast of the popular scenic tourist site of Milford Sound in the southwest of the country.

It was followed by a series of aftershocks measuring up to magnitude 6.2.

The quakes were widely felt throughout the South Island and lower North Island with residents saying they felt a powerful shake rather than rumbling or rolling tremors.

However, though the initial quake was strong only a few rock falls were reported and there was no serious damage to buildings or infrastructure.

"We've got people out on the road doing regular inspections, but we haven't got any reports of any significant damage at all," area engineer John Jarvis said.

The director of the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, John Hamilton, said there was no risk of a tsunami.

Milford Sound Development Authority operations manager Dave Inwood said he was at a local visitor center when the 6.2 aftershock struck mid-morning.

The center was busy with tourists waiting to take cruises on Milford Sound or sightseeing trips, but no one took much notice, he said.

"I'm not sure if the tourists thought they were on a floating structure or not, but nobody showed any interest in moving," he said.

"We all just stood there and watched as the building shook. It was just very gentle."

New Zealand experiences many earthquakes because of its position on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific plates with a tremor of magnitude of 7.6 recorded off the southern coast just over two weeks ago.

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