Moon man's quake prediction no great shakes

If New Zealand Skeptics spokeswoman Vicki Hyde had a dollar for every devastating earthquake prophecy she has heard over the years, she believes she could just about fund the entire Christchurch rebuild.

"But if I had to rely on the predictions that turned out to be correct, I couldn't even buy a coffee," she told a crowd gathered for a midday lunch at the Sign of the Kiwi, a 95-year-old stone building on the city's Port Hills, yesterday.

As hundreds of Cantabrians fled the region for the day, Ms Hyde gathered with about 50 fellow non-believers, including Nelson MP Nick Smith, to mark a "non-event" – self-styled earthquake oracle man Ken Ring's prediction of a big quake that would hit Canterbury around midday yesterday.

Mr Ring, aka the Moon man, believes he can predict quakes by charting tides and the Moon. His prophecies have been panned by scientists, meteorologists, geologists and Skeptics members.

Ms Hyde said Mr Ring's false predictions were causing unnecessary psychological harm and stress. "Facts may whisper, but fear screams.

"You have to ask; how many times does he have to be self-contradictory or just plain wrong before people stop paying attention to him?"

Geologists, teachers, students, engineers, parents and building industry workers converged on the oldest and highest city building that the Skeptics could find to eat lunch, slam Mr Ring's forecasts and celebrate "rational thought over scaremongering".

Dr Smith said Mr Ring's speculation and "scaremongering" was "reckless and irresponsible" and without scientific base.

Mr Ring owed Canterbury an apology, Dr Smith said. "Cantabrians have been through enough trauma."

Camping grounds and motels in South Canterbury were close to full at the weekend as many Christchurch residents fled the city.

However, those who retreated to Twizel experienced three earthquakes – a magnitude 4.6 and two measuring magnitude 4.3 – in quick succession early yesterday afternoon.

For the people who stayed in Christchurch, by 8pm they would have only felt two quakes, a magnitude 3.2 rumble 5km deep and 10km to the south at 1.42am, and a 3.1 tremor 20km deep and within 5km of the city at 8.57am. Fairfax

Fairfax Media