Large quake rocks Manawatu
Last night's widely-felt magnitude-7.0 earthquake was the largest in the area for up to 120 years, says a seismologist.
People described hanging on to doorways and diving for cover when the quake struck the country.
In some parts of Palmerston North it lasted about 30-40 seconds and had a rolling motion.
The first quake was followed nine minutes later by a 4.6 shake at the same depth, 70km south of Opunake.
GNS Science duty seismologist Lara Bland said the 7.0 quake was the largest to strike the Taranaki Bight area for the past 100 to 120 years.
It was related to the subduction zone where the Pacific tectonic plate was being driven under the Australian plate, she said.
The quake probably happened on the Pacific plate, which dipped down deeply, she said, occurring because the plate was hard and brittle.
That was also partly why it had been felt so widely, as the energy travelled "efficiently" back up the plate to the surface.
It was a good-sized shake but the depth and distance offshore limited its impact, Bland said.
Manawatu Standard Facebook user Kristy Rodgers from Palmerston North said: "I think it lasted about 60 seconds and very loud."
Bridie Harris wrote: "Sitting watching the news on telly, heard a funny noise and thought my cat climbed into my wall unit, but knew it wasn't when my couch started moving.
"It reminded me of my first earthquake in 1974, when my bed moved and I thought there was someone under it.
"Very scary indeed."
The earthquake was felt in Taranaki, Wellington, Napier, Manawatu and as far south as Christchurch.
It was felt strongly in Wellington and was originally reported as measuring 6.5.
Taranaki Civil defence senior emergency management officer Shane Briggs said he had been in contact with fire services and the Ministry of Civil Defence but there had been no reports of any damage.
He said despite the quake happening offshore, there was only a low tsunami risk, because it had struck so deep.
''I'll be heading out for a look but I think it's unlikely there's been any damage.''
Neither New Plymouth nor Hawera police had received any reports of damage.
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GeoNet reported the tremor, which hit at 10.36pm, was centred 230km deep and was 60km south of of the Taranaki town of Opunake.
People from Bay of Plenty to Otago reported feeling it.