Monday, January 20, 2014

Wellington, New Zeland rocked by a strong magnitude 6.3 earthquake


Central New Zealand has been rocked by a strong magnitude 6.3 earthquake that shook buildings in central Wellington. The "severe" quake struck 10km north of Castlepoint in Wairarapa at 3.52pm, GeoNet said. It was felt as a long, rolling quake by many Herald readers which lasted about a minute. The giant eagle hanging from the roof of Wellington airport to promote the Hobbit trilogy has fallen down due to the shake. The Weta Workshop eagles installed at the airport each weigh 2 tonnes, have a wingspan of 15m, and were suspended from the roof by eight cables. Wellington Airport could not be immediately reached to confirm whether anyone was injured or whether both fell down. Inspector Mike Coleman of police central communications said there were reports of damage to houses in Eketahuna, including broken windows, collapsed walls and fallen chimneys. However, there were no reported injuries at this stage. The number of reports of damage remained unknown. "Obviously some houses have been damaged," Mr Coleman said. "Windows have been smashed and crockery has been thrown around the place - the usual sort of movement with earthquakes."

Mr Coleman said there were rocks and debris on roads between Woodville and Taihape due to various slips. The Manawatu Gorge road was down to one lane, while the road between Pahiatua and Palmerston North was closed. Bridges and roads around Eketahuna were being checked, Mr Coleman said. Motorists in the lower North Island were urged to take care. In North Wairarapa crockery broke, fridge doors were flung open spilling food onto kitchen floors and disheartened homeowners described the aftermath as "a bloody mess". In Masterton initial reports showed there was little damage in shops although some crockery had been broken. Fire Service central communications shift manager Mike Wanoa said there were no reports of major damage so far. "We're extremely busy at the present time. We've got no reports of damage. "The earthquake has been reasonably major in the Masterton-Eketahuna area, so we're getting multiple calls to all sorts of things at the moment, but we're right in the middle of it now." Electricity retailer Powershop, which has its headquarters in Masterton, tweeted that it had evacuated its call centre following the earthquake. The company said it would continue responding to email queries as best it could. A police communications spokesman said police had not yet received any quake-related callouts. A spokeswoman for the Earthquake Commission (EQC) said the agency was still gathering information on the quake and the volume of calls received. Tranz Metro said all train services in the Wellington region had been suspended due to the quake.


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