Wellington, 21 July
A powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake rocked central New Zealand today, sending frightened people into the streets, halting trains and downing power lines.
However no tsunami alert was issued and no substantial damage was reported but the quake ~ the strongest in a series of tremors in recent days ~ smashed windows in the capital Wellington and sent blocks of masonry toppling from buildings. One hotel was evacuated after structural damage was discovered, the airport was closed temporarily and suburban train services were stopped.
The quake hit at 5.09 p.m. (0509 GMT) 57 km south-southwest of Wellington at a depth of 14 km, the US Geological Survey said.
It was widely felt in the lower North Island and upper South Island and sent people rushing into the streets from cinemas and shops.
Electricity supplies were cut in many areas, trapping people in elevators.
Although no substantial damage was reported, New Zealand remains on edge about severe earthquakes following a devastating tremor two years ago that killed 185 people in the main South Island city of Christchurch.
“Biggest one I’ve ever felt here in Wellington. Scary stuff,” one web user wrote on the Stuff news website.