A strong magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck off New Zealand yesterday, jolting the nation’s capital, but no tsunami alert was issued and there were no reports of substantial damage.
The quake hit at 5:09pm 57km south-southwest of Wellington at a depth of 14km, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.
USGS initially reported the magnitude at 6.9.
It was followed minutes later by another quake of 5.5 and came about 10 hours after a 5.8 tremor in the same region.
Dozens of earthquakes were recorded yesterday, with New Zealand’s GeoNet earthquake monitoring service describing the 6.5 tremor which was felt widely as “severe.”
“There was a rocking and rattling which lasted about 30 seconds,” a resident in the South Island resort town of Nelson said.
The fire service received multiple calls to assist people trapped in elevators in Wellington and the tremor also set off sprinklers in city buildings and cut electricity supplies. There were also reports of a shop roof collapsing, while masonry fell from some properties, cinemas were evacuated and stock tumbled from supermarket shelves.
Wellington Civil Defence Controller Bruce Pepperell said there had been reports of structural damage to a number of buildings around the city, but no widespread damage.
“At the moment we have had only one report of an injury around the region,” he said. “While some buildings are damaged and have been evacuated, the city and region has by no means ground to a halt.”
Authorities said Wellington Airport was closed temporarily while safety checks were carried out and the region’s rail network had also been closed while checks were done on bridges, tunnels and other structures.
Police have closed sections of the central business district while checks were being carried out. Seismologist Anna Kaiser told the New Zealand Herald that earthquakes of this magnitude were not unusual in the region.
“When we get one of these events there will be increased seismicity in the region and there’s always the possibility of a larger event but it’s unlikely,” she said.