The year gets off to a shaky old start

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 02/01/2013

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Powerful earthquakes that rocked Taranaki's New Year morning do not mean a bigger one is on the way, a GNS scientist says.

Partying or not, all Taranaki residents started 2013 with a bang when a 5.0 magnitude earthquake struck 30km off the coast of Opunake at 3.11am.

The big shake was followed by two smaller aftershocks and then a powerful 4.3 magnitude quake at 3.42am.

GNS Science duty vulcanologist Steve Sherburn said it was not unusual to have seismic activity in the Cape Egmont fault zone where the quakes were located.

He said between 100 and 200 earthquakes were recorded in the area each year and the shakes did not imply more were to come.

"There was a magnitude 6.1 in 1974 offshore of Opunake so these things are not unusual. We don't see any evidence of a build-up phenomenon. I would be very surprised if it didn't just fade away," he said.

More than 10 aftershocks have been recorded since the magnitude 5.0 shake, all between magnitude 2.3 and 2.7.

Mr Sherburn said it was unlikely the quakes signalled volcanic activity on Mt Taranaki as similar shakes in the past had been unrelated to the mountain.

Minutes after the first big shake, Taranaki Civil Defence tweeted there was no tsunami warning and it was unlikely the event would generate one.

"If there are aftershocks, remember to Drop, Cover, Hold," they tweeted.

They weren't the only ones using social media to talk about the earthquakes. Sean Kelly took to Twitter to share his anxieties.

"All three earthquakes managed to wake me up when alarm clocks won't, can't sleep now due to fear of fourth," he said.

For William Johnston, time slowed down, making the 15 second quake feel somewhat longer.

"Was about to go to bed and I heard the first one come. It shook the house from side to side and lasted about 30 seconds," Mr Johnston said.

In July 2012 a magnitude 7.0 quake centred 230km deep and 60km south of Opunake, was the largest to strike the Taranaki Bight area for 120 years.

No reports of damage or injuries related to the quakes have been received, though numerous people have complained of being grumpy following their early morning wake-up.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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