Seddon tackles clean-up and "amazing Wellington spirit' comes to the fore after 6.6-magnitude tremor and aftershocks strike upper South Island and lower North.
Thousands of quake-rattled Wellingtonians fled the city, choking roads, as the tremor and a swarm of aftershocks rocked the capital.
The 6.6 shake at 2.31pm was centred near the Marlborough town of Seddon, not far from last month's 6.5 shake. Yesterday's shake caused more damage to homes, but no lives were lost and injuries were few.
Twenty-two people had registered to stay at the welfare centre at Seddon School last night.
Seismologists have warned the aftershocks will keep coming.
GNS Science duty seismologist Anna Kaiser said the 6.6 tremor was centred 30 kilometres southwest of the July 21 one.
City workers spilled on to Wellington streets after buildings were evacuated yesterday afternoon or employers told staff to go home.
One Wellington woman said she was afraid she would die during the tremors while another simply sat trembling on the pavement.
Roads around the CBD and state highways quickly became clogged with people trying to make their way home, with some even deciding to walk along the highway to avoid the traffic.
Passing motorists were stopped by police and told to pack in a few of the thousands of commuters stranded at Wellington railway station after all trains were cancelled.
Senior Sergeant Bruce Johnston had been helping people find rides home from the station since before 3pm. "People are naturally pretty great and willing to help. We're still waiting on buses to places like Waikanae," he said.
"Kapiti Coast and people who get the Capital Connection are the hardest to find rides for."
However, many opted to wait out the clogged roads or bus queues with a drink at the pub.
City workers sitting in the outdoor area of the GP pub nursed beers as they checked their phones, many waiting for rides that were a long time coming.
Administrator Lynne Shaw, who was standing in Boulcott St waiting for her husband to pick her up, said her colleagues had gone for a drink until the traffic settled down.
"We live in Raumati South, so there's no other way to get home, unless I walk up the gorge."
Some streets were cordoned off last night because of damage, including Lukes Lane, where emergency work was under way to secure or even demolish an unstable lift shaft damaged for the second time in as many months.
There were some reports of more substantial damage to other CBD buildings but yesterday afternoon Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there did not appear to be any significant damage from the shake.
Civil Defence controller Bruce Pepperell said reports of damage were minimal. "There has been the occasional fire, a little tiny bit of facade damage but nothing much to speak of. The big damage is in people's confidence at this stage."
GNS scientist Kelvin Berryman said yesterday's earthquake swarm appeared to be a "rejuvenation" of the area shaken last month.
"You can anticipate pretty meaty aftershocks with a quake of that strength, so it's not such a surprise that we've had so many since."
The quakes also triggered a small cluster of earthquakes in Levin, Taihape, South Taranaki and closer to Wellington.
Wellington Airport remained open after a routine check of the runway, though there was some disruption to flights, with one delayed just as it was preparing to take off.
"[We] didn't realise for at least about 15 seconds until people started screaming," passenger Andrew Holliday said.
About 7500 customers also lost power in Kapiti, Wainuiomata and parts of Wellington City but all had been reconnected by 5pm.
Water supply was not disrupted but there were at least 11 gas-related callouts.
Phone lines quickly became jammed after the first quake, though emergency calls were reported to be unaffected. Fire service crews were scrambling to calls last night but most were alarms set off by the quakes.
Downtown Community Ministry sits in the shadow of the unstable shaft in Lukes Lane and director Stephanie McIntyre said she told all staff to go home yesterday afternoon.
But the charity's annual book fair this weekend would go ahead as planned.
"Come Monday we'll look at where we're at, but we're ready to rock and roll. [The last earthquake] showed we could do it remotely."
Paraparaumu's Liquor King lost about $20,000 worth of stock in last month's earthquake, and had another big cleanup job ahead of it this weekend.
"It started pretty small and then it started shaking a lot worse and I just decided to sprint for it, just ran outside," said duty manager Matthew Williams.
The race meeting scheduled for Trentham Racecourse today was abandoned as a precaution.
SHAKEN MARLBOROUGH READIES CLEAN-UP
Marlborough Civil Defence incident controller Chris Hayles said last night it was a case of "hurry up and wait" as help gathered at the welfare centre in Seddon.
The priority was checking everyone was safe and encouraging them to gather at the centre in the Seddon School hall, he said last night as strong quakes continued to rock the area.
His biggest concern was a forecast for 150mm of rain before Sunday.
At first light, the Emergency Operations Centre in Blenheim would stock-take what help was needed to weather-proof homes with damaged roofs and broken windows. Businesses had donated materials, including PlaceMakers which offered plasterboard and trucking companies which had contributed tarpaulins, Mr Hayles said.
Builders, building inspectors and plumbers could be called in. This was not a Civil Defence emergency but the organisation was playing a leading role in welfare, he said.
"I am the eyes and ears on the ground, with the Red Cross helping."
The biggest message was for people to use the welfare centre or it would close.
Twenty-two people were to spend last night at the emergency centre.
Search and rescue teams have continued to check properties, checking property damage and making people aware of the emergency centre.
Two people were reported to have required medical attention after the quakes, although both were medical problems rather than injuries.
The majority of the houses in Seddon had sustained some degree of damage but most are still habitable, a spokesman said.
State Highway 1 last night remained closed between Blenheim and Kaikoura.
Marlborough District Council staff and Civil Defence team members were go to Seddon today to begin assessing damage and assessing any welfare needs.
Power was restored to all but about 100 customers in the region last night.
Mr Hayles said community support had been huge.
People were recognising the welfare centre was the best place to be, in a group. Rural Fire Brigade volunteers barbecued sausages for evacuees and the Salvation Army delivered meals.
In Blenheim, buildings were evacuated, Stadium 2000 and the public library among them. Blenheim police cordoned off the Forum in the central township and sent all shop owners and staff home after large cracks that appeared on a pedestrian flyover.
Staff at the three Countdown supermarkets in Blenheim managed to keep customers calm as stock fell off shelves around them and then evacuated the buildings.
Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said the buildings had been checked through a company protocol, including structural checks, before the staff were allowed back in to clean up the mess but the mess was cleared away and all three supermarkets reopened by 6pm.
The Fresh Choice supermarket at Picton was also open, but the Supervalue supermarket in Seddon remained closed.
COMMUTERS RELY ON KINDNESS
Sunshine Prior has already been through the big quakes in Christchurch but the aftermath of tremors in Wellington still left her on the ground shaking.
The 29-year-old former Christchurch resident sat on the ground in the CBD even as people from the nearby evacuated Todd and ASB buildings milled around her in the wake of the 6.6 magnitude quake yesterday afternoon.
She had been in a nearby cafe when the quake struck and immediately ran to Fritz's Wieners in Post Office Square in Grey St, and into the arms of her friend Polly Tricker, 23.
"The whole thing shook just like in Christchurch, it was terrible," Ms Prior said. "It was horrible, it felt just like the Christchurch one."
Ms Tricker, who was in the Fritz's cart at the time, said it was frightening.
"The whole thing shook and I just sprinted outside and towards the waterfront, away from all the buildings," she said.
Tawa College pupils Tim Jackson, 17, and Matthew Watson, 16, had been rock climbing at the wall in Fergs Kayaks near the waterfront when the quake struck.
"I was on the ground harnessing my friend and, just before I hooked up, everything started shaking from side to side," Matthew said.
Another pupil was trapped at the top of the climbing wall, and had to wait until it was still to be pulled down.
She was unharmed.
The boys were getting calls and texts from their parents telling them to come home, but expected to be stuck in town for a while.
Thousands of commuters had to rely on the kindness of strangers to get home yesterday afternoon after trains were cancelled.
Wellington railway station was closed and passengers awaiting replacement buses were directed to car pool.
Senior Sergeant Bruce Johnston had been helping people find rides home from the station since the quake hit.
"People are naturally pretty great and willing to help. We're still waiting on buses to places like Waikanae," he said.
"Kapiti Coast and people who get the Capital Connection are the hardest to find rides for."
Roimata White, 16, and her two cousins were waiting by the station to be picked up by their uncle.
"He's been texting us and says he's not too far away. We have to get to Porirua."
Roimata said when the earthquake struck it was really scary and she was afraid she was going to die.
But seeing people giving rides was fantastic. "It's so cool. It just shows that amazing Wellington spirit."
SIMULATOR NO MATCH FOR REAL THING
Te Papa's earthquake simulator couldn't prepare a group of Brazilian tourists for the real thing when they experienced a quake for the first time.
Roberto Sander and three friends arrived in Wellington yesterday after driving down from Auckland. Like many tourists, one of their first stops in the capital city was Te Papa.
They were exploring the museum's Awesome Forces exhibit and, as they had never been in an earthquake, decided to check out the earthquake house, which simulates the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake.
"We were in the earthquake house and I was thinking how scary a real one would be. After we got out of it, my friend Antonio was just spinning a sculpture thing when the floor started shaking and shaking.
"We looked around but there was nothing to hold on to or get under, just paintings on the walls. I couldn't believe it was really happening, I'd only seen it in the movies before this."
It was hard to tell at first whether they were imagining things, Mr Sander said.
"It took a few seconds to realise this was the real deal. I did not like it, that's for sure."
They gathered in the Te Papa foyer with other panicked tourists and were eventually given the all-clear by museum staff to leave.
The group was planning to fly out to Sydney today but wished they could leave sooner, Mr Sander said. In the meantime, they were having a quick drink at the nearby St Johns Bar and Restaurant. "We needed a good strong drink after that. Especially if we're in for more of this."
Te Papa closed yesterday after the quake.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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