Strong earthquakes rock central NZ
A 4.3 quake hit the east coast of New Zealand tonight, following a 4.5 magnitude quake in central New Zealand this afternoon, and a 5.7 earthquake that rattled people in Wellington and Blenheim this morning.
Geonet reported tonight's quake was 20km east of Te Araroa, a settlement on the east coast of the north island, near the southern edge of the Bay of Plenty. The quake was 62km deep and hit at 11.42pm.
GeoNet reported this afternoon's was of a "strong" intensity, 35km east of Seddon, at a depth of 15km. The quake hit at 3.21pm.
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The first quake struck at 9.06am and was centred 30km east of Seddon, south of Blenheim, at a depth of 8km.
Rated as severe, it turned Wellington office workers white-knuckled as it swayed high-rises in the capital, with buildings also being rocked in Blenheim.
The shallow tremor was felt as far away as Christchurch and New Plymouth.
In Wellington it was felt as one jolt, gradually picking up in intensity, while those in Blenheim felt two shakes.
GeoNet said it received more than 6000 reports after the jolt. It said the fact it struck off the South Island spared the region from its full force, though there were a few reports that it had a damaging intensity.
Though it had knocked goods off shelves in Blenheim it was much too small to cause a tsunami, GeoNet said.
An offshore earthquake needed to be at least magnitude 7.5 for a tsunami to be considered possible.
The quake was preceded by a magnitude-2.9 "foreshock" in the same location 6 minutes before the main shock.
An Earthqake Commission spokeswoman said 14 claims had been received following the first quake, but she expected more once people got home from work.
It was too early to itemise the claims, she said.
By 11am there had been 17 aftershocks in the region, the largest a magnitude 3.7, 30km east of Seddon.
Aftershocks were likely to continue for the next 24 hours.
Early analysis had the fault movement as "reverse faulting", meaning each side of the fault was being compressed.
'LIKE A BLOODY ROLLERCOASTER'
In Marlborough, Lake Grassmere farmer Peter Davison said he had never seen his house buck and shake so much.
"It was like being on a bloody rollercoaster," he said.
He was looking out the window of his Marfells Beach Rd home when it hit.
It was worse than the Boxing Day quake in 2010, which he had been in Christchurch for, he said.
"I've never felt anything like it," he said.
His fishing rods had fallen and lay scattered around his library and pictures were askew on the walls.
"It's a wooden house and I've never seen the walls move like this," he said.
Blenheim New World supermarket owner Ashley Shore said about 100 items fell off the shelves, but no-one was too fazed.
"The team cleaned it up pretty quickly and there was actually customers in the aisles who just carried on shopping," he said.
Seddon Supervalue till operator Carrie Rule said staff and the one customer at the supermarket during the earthquake were a bit shaky.
"She was a good one," Rule said.
"We're all still a bit shaky but it wasn't too bad, no stock fell off the shelves or anything, but apparently there was a truck in the car park which was shaking back and forth."
Winemaker Peter Yealands from the Awatere Valley said it was the biggest quake he could recall.
"The tanks moved a bit and the staff were a bit scared, as you'd expect," Yealands said.
It was the first major quake for the Yealands Estate winery, since it was built in 2008. Sitting on a fault line area it had been designed to withstand a magnitude-8 earthquake.
Wellington office workers reported ducking under their desks when the quake arrived at 9.06am, and there was a report of lifts in some buildings being out of action.
It "felt like I was standing on a skate board," Mena Bassily said.
"I was at the gym on one floor and hoped it was only Wellington, not a bigger remote earthquake harming another NZ city somewhere else".
Auckland school teacher Barbara Brewer, visiting Wellington for the national under-19 netball championships was shocked.
"Holy shite, how often do quakes that shake the whole house happen?" she said.
The coach of the Auckland side which last night won the national title, had been in the shower.
KiwiRail had put precautionary restrictions on trains going through tunnels or over bridges, a spokeswoman said.
They extended from Otaki, just south of Levin, to just north of Kaikoura, she said.
Restrictions meant trains would travel slowly across bridges and through tunnels.
All the structures and lines would be checked before the restrictions were lifted.
Bridge inspections were being done as a precaution in Marlborough, Marlborough Roads general manager Frank Porter said.
Marlborough Roads was not aware of any issues. No problems been reported.