Strong earthquakes shook central New Zealand yesterday, damaging homes, destroying a bridge and sending office workers scrambling for cover in the capital. No serious injuries have been reported.
A magnitude 6.5 temblor struck just after 2:30pm near the small South Island town of Seddon, and at least six aftershocks were magnitude 5 or stronger.
Several homes near the epicenter were severely damaged, with chimneys collapsing and roofs caving in, police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn said. She said a bridge was severely damaged on the main highway near Seddon, and that rocks and debris had fallen onto the road. Police closed a section of the highway.
Some buildings in Wellington were evacuated and items were knocked off shelves in places.
Police said a number of people were freed from elevators that stopped working. The initial temblor also forced the nation’s stock exchange to close for more than an hour.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there was no major damage to the city’s infrastructure or office buildings. She said highways had become clogged as people left the city.
“We think this is business as usual,” she said, “but it is going to take a little while for people to get home tonight.”
The US Geological Survey said the epicenter of the initial temblor was 94km west of Wellington at a depth of 10km.
A quake of similar strength in the same area three weeks ago broke water mains, smashed windows and downed power lines.
Caroline Little, a seismologist with New Zealand quake monitoring agency GeoNet, said the series of quakes since last month had followed an unusual pattern.
“Normally you get a big quake and then the aftershocks get smaller in magnitude,” she said.
Little said last month’s quake was on a fault line near Seddon that had not previously been mapped. She said it was too early to determine if yesterday’s quakes were on that same fault.
A different fault line runs through Wellington, and many in the city fear a major disaster if it were to become active.
Local authorities issued no tsunami warnings after the quakes.