Magnitude 5.7 earthquake jolts South Island, felt from Dunedin to Auckland

People reported feeling the quake from Dunedin to Auckland.

People reported feeling the quake from Dunedin to Auckland.

Strong aftershocks are expected after a 5.7 magnitude earthquake rattled the upper South Island.

Thousands of people, from Dunedin to Auckland, reported feeling the earthquake, which hit at 1.38pm on Tuesday. 

There have been no reports of injuries or significant damage.  

The earthquake was centred near Molesworth Airport, inland from Kaikoura and 45km southeast of St Arnaud, in the Nelson Lakes District.

It struck 48km below the surface, according to the latest estimate.

GNS Science duty seismologist Anna Kaiser said people could expect aftershocks up to magnitude 4.7.

However, because the initial quake was deeper, there may be fewer aftershocks.

The earthquake was felt from Otago to Auckland, and widely felt between Wellington and Christchurch, Kaiser said.

"Although it was a decent sized shake, and it certainly would have been felt by people around that epicentral region, it is in a reasonably remote area ... so we don't expect any major damage from the earthquake."

The earthquake depth suggested it was associated with a "subduction system" extending from the North Island to the upper South Island. 

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The system was much like "an amazing, major fault line, that's simply buried beneath the surface. Above that, you've got these active faults running through the crust".


St John spokesman Ian Henderson said the organisation had so far received no reports of injuries nor received any calls related to the earthquake. 

"We advise people to look out for each other and friends and family, especially those who are alone, infirm or elderly and who need support," he said. 

The Hurunui District Council said it was checking water systems and roading, but there were no initial reports of damage. 

"Our civil defence team are monitoring the situation," the council posted to its Facebook page.

"This does serve as a good reminder for us all to check on the status of household emergency kits and family safety plans."


GNS Science wrote on its website the strongest shaking was felt in Kaikoura, according to its "felt reports".

Kaikoura resident Lydia Melville said the quake lasted 15 to 20 seconds.

"It was slow to start off with then violently shook. Nothing fell over, it wasn't as serious as some people would have thought."

She said it if continued any longer she would have sheltered herself under a table. 

Kaikoura Top Spot Backpackers manager Noah Taylor said the quake was "intense".

It was the first quake some of the guests had ever felt, and they were visibly shaken.

"Some of them were quite passive at first, but others were definitely scared. We assembled in the middle of the backpackers and waited for it to stop."

Kaikoura High School staff and pupils started moving towards the field before the earthquake ended.

Some of the students were frightened, some "took it in their stride", and some were even excited, principal John Tait said.

"We sent the teachers around the grounds to talk to the students to see if there were any issues."

Kaikoura i-Site manager Mariet van Vierzen said she got halfway under her desk.

"One staff member ran outside to see if the building had been hit by a car, but there was not really a lot of panic," she said. 

Kaikoura jewellery shop Jade Kiwi owner Cezanne Lyons said the glass cabinets in her shop rattled, but nothing fell over.

"I was amazed," she said. 

"I felt the first one, then everything started rolling. I had a shop full of customers, I just started moving everyone away from the shelves."


Some Wellington office workers panicked as the earthquake shook the lower North Island. 

Gaylene Hosking was on the eighth floor of Wakefield House on The Terrace, in Wellington. 

"There was a rumble and the place was shaking," Hosking said.

"We didn't get under our desks, before we could think about that it was over."

Back in the upper South Island, St Arnaud House Bed & Breakfast owner Margery Chilton said her two-storey home "swayed".

"I don't think it was as bad as recent quakes, we don't have any damage that's for sure."

St Arnaud Alpine Store employee Elaine Richards did not feel the earthquake in her office. 

"We had some people come in that were in a campervan and were stationary, they said they were really rocked," she said. 

St Arnaud Alpine Lodge owner Alexandra Untereerger said two of her staff stood in a doorway. 

"It was quite a little shake up, but we're all ok."

"The first thing I was thinking about was my 1-year-old boy who was upstairs with my husband."

"You just wait and think, 'Is it going to get worse?'. We're quite lucky though, we are on floating foundations."

Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre supervisor Gabriella Czoma said some staff held onto their desks, but that was "about it". 

"Nothing fell off the shelves, we didn't feel it too much, really. We must just have a very strong building."


Geonet recorded two earthquakes in the area five days ago, on February 4. Both quakes, just south of Blenheim, were considered "light", reaching magnitudes 3.2 and 3.3.

In April 2015, the same area was jolted by a magnitude-6.2 quake at a depth of 52km. It was described at the time as "scary" by those who felt it, but "fairly run of the mill" by GNS Science seismologist John Ristau.

Seddon was rocked by a 6.5 magnitude in July 2013.

 - Stuff


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