Strong quake jolts New Zealand’s North Island

AFP-JIJI

A strong magnitude-6.3 earthquake rattled New Zealand Monday, halting train services and knocking merchandise off shelves, but there were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries.

The quake, which struck at 3:52 p.m., was centered in the North Island about 115 km northeast of the capital city Wellington, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The tremor hit at a depth of 27 km and was widely felt throughout the North and South islands. It was followed by a series of smaller aftershocks.

“I’ve seen the neighbors and they’re a bit shaken up but apart from that no damage,” Brian Smith, of Eketahuna, near the centre of the quake, told Radio New Zealand, describing the tremor as a sharp jolt.

“My wife was outside in the garden and she said she couldn’t stand up and had to sit down.”

Some houses in the small township of Eketahuna suffered broken windows and structural damage but police said there had been no reports of injuries.

Pam Lochore, wife of All Blacks player Brian Lochore, said photographs had fallen off shelves and “a rugby ball went flying across the room” in their home at Masterton in the south of the North Island.

One casualty of the quake was a giant model eagle which fell to the ground from the roof of Wellington Airport where it was being used to promote the “Hobbit” movie trilogy.

All train services in the Wellington region were suspended due to the quake.

New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, forming part of the so-called “Ring of Fire,” and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.

A devastating magnitude-6.3 temblor in the South Island city of Christchurch in 2011 killed 185 people — one of the nation’s deadliest disasters of the modern era.

Wellington was the scene of the country’s most powerful earthquake in 1855.

That devastating magnitude-8.2 quake caused four deaths and changed the city’s entire geography, pushing the shoreline out 200 meters as it thrust the harbor floor upward.