Wellington, Dec 20: A strong earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale rocked New Zealand today.
The quake was centred 50 kilometres south-east of Gisborne, on the east coast of the North Island, and tremors could be felt nearly 900 kilometres away in the South Island. Seismologists at GNS Science record about 14,000 earthquakes a year in and around New Zealand, and about 100 to 150 of them are big enough to be felt.
Inspector James Taare said police have received reports of major damage after the earthquake but do not know if anyone was injured. He said no tsunami warnings had been issued.
One of the New Zealand website quoted readers as saying that the earthquake was felt strongly in Wellington, Bleheim and Nelson and tremors were reported further down the South Island including Christchurch, Dunedin and Hokitika on the west coast. National MP Craig Foss, who lives at Waimarama on the Hawke's Bay coast said his "whole house seemed to rock for ages.
"Our youngest, five years old, was woken by the quake and noise and we all stood under an internal door frame. I am sure the lights dimmed just before the quake hit. It seemed to go on for a long time," he said.
"There was a lot of creaking and groaning. Our home seemed to take a long time to settle down and stop moving," he added.
A Napier reader reported that their phones went down temporarily and glasses fell out of their cabinets. Callan Attwell of the Capital and Coast District Health Board said: "Everyone in theatre in the Wellington hospital felt it." Civil defence had been activated and they were carrying out emergency plans.