Quake rocks Nelson area

01:43, Jan 31 2009

A 5.6 magnitude earthquake centred 40km south of St Arnaud Thursday morning was felt strongly by residents across the Nelson region, particularly in Murchison and St Arnaud, but it appears to have caused little damage.

The quake, at 8.15am, rattled workplaces and woke people up.

It was centered 70km underground and about halfway between Hanmer Springs and St Arnaud, 100km south of Nelson, according to GeoNet.

The earthquake was felt as far away as Taranaki and Ashburton.

Geonet duty seismologist Nora Patterson said that by just after 10am the geological hazard monitoring agency had received 1423 reports from people who had felt the quake. It had received no reports of structural damage, but there were reports of objects falling off shelves in homes.

A few broken pickle jars and soap were being cleared from the floor of Murchison Supermarket this morning after the quake set its aisles shaking.


"We could hear all the chillers move just slightly before the aisles started shaking," said manager Tim Baker.

"It sounded just like a big truck going past.

"Then we just headed for the doorways."

Constable Steffan James of Murchison police said there had been no reports to police of damage in Murchison Thursday morning but it had been a "fairly good shake".

It was the biggest quake Mr James had felt during his nine months in the town.

Nelson police also received no reports of damage from the quake Thursday morning.

At New World Nelson City, employee Dina Humphreys was standing by the store's coffee counter when she felt the floor shaking beneath her.

"I thought my legs were giving way."

Ms Humphreys said the supermarket's shelves shook but nothing fell off.

In Golden Bay, Takaka Fuels and Fishing employee Susan Bennett said she could not feel the ground shaking during the quake but knew something was happening.

"I couldn't work it out actually, but I could see things rattling in the shop."

St Arnaud resident Ted Krammer said a sound "like thunder" preceded the shake, which was "quite a good one".

He didn't know of any damage in the town.

Dominick Unterberger was "in bed half-asleep" at the Alpine Lodge in St Arnaud when he was awoken by the quake.

The whole building shook, but there were no signs of visual damage, he said.

Ms Patterson said New Zealand had about 10 earthquakes measuring in excess of 5 on the Richter scale each year and 5.6 was getting quite large.

But the depth of Thursday morning's quake meant the shock waves dispersed. It was felt around a large area but the intensity was minimised.

The 1929 Murchison earthquake, which killed 17 people, was 7.7 on the Richter scale and 9km deep, she said.

The Nelson Mail