By 3 News online staff
At least four people are believed to have been injured as aftershocks continue to rock Wellington.
A series of severe aftershocks struck close to the capital at about 5:10 this evening; a magnitude 6.5 centred 20km east of Seddon, followed by a 5.5 quake and a series of smaller, shallow quakes.
More than 4000 people across the North Island and as far south as Christchurch have reported feeling the quake. Four people have suffered minor injuries.
- Did you feel the earthquake? Send us your story, photos or video here.
Serious damage has been reported in Seddon, Marlborough, the closest town to the epicenter of the quake.
Resident Joe Morgan told 3 News the majority of the damage appears to be to property inside the houses. He described structural damage to property as "minor".
There were a number of power outages earlier this evening, however that has since been restored and residents have begun cleaning up.
An evacuation centre has been set up at the Seddon rugby club.
Meanwhile Wellington police have closed sections of Featherston St, Wakefield St and Bolton St in Wellington's CBD, along with Willis St and Webb St. Others are being assessed for damage and may be closed if hazardous.
The Mercure Hotel on Willis St was evacuated, amid reports of a floor collapse. One corner of the building was seen to be slumping 5cm. The Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) says the hotel has been reopened and the surrounding road closures will be lifted shortly. Hotel Willis and Capital Accommodation on the corner of Willis and Webb streets were also evacuated.
Residents have been urged to stay out of the central city as buildings are assessed in the area.
"There are some cracks in buildings [and] we've also got shards of glass and loose masonry in some of the buildings," Wellington Region Civil Defence controller Bruce Pepperell told 3 News.
Civil Defence are concerned about the Regional Council and Wellington City Council buildings, while an apartment building has also been evacuated.
ACC's Wellington and Hutt Valley branches, along with the ACC head office in the Justice Centre will be closed Monday morning for a clean-up of damage and building checks to be completed. Staff have been asked not to come to work Monday morning.
But, Mr Pepperell urged residents to "stay calm".
"This is not a Christchurch situation – there has been a severe jolt and there has been significant damage."
Workers are advised to delay travel to work until at least midday on Monday, amid concern over damaged buildings and potentially dangerous facades in the central city.
Mr Pepperell says bridges, tunnels and other structures are being assessed and there are reports of damage to CentrePort.
Mr Pepperell warns there is probably damage to other buildings and infrastructure that has not been discovered this evening.
"We need to give building owners, building managers, tenants and engineers time to do checks on buildings to look for damage and make sure they are safe," he says.
"It is likely there will still be some parts of the CBD cordoned-off in the morning – so in some cases, people might not be able to get access to their workplaces."
Wellington Airport has reopened following checks but there are delays and travellers are advised to check with their airline to confirm flight status. KiwiRail is advising TranzMetro passengers that all commuter lines are closed tomorrow, with no peak train services or bus replacements operating.
Cursory track inspections have been undertaken across all four lines - Wairarapa, Kapiti, Hutt Valley and Johnsonville - to check for damage to the rail.
However, due to the number of aftershocks that have taken place tonight and the constraints involved in undertaking inspections without daylight, KiwiRail will be carrying out another inspection tomorrow morning to ensure that there is no damage to the tracks, bridges and tunnels that may not have been identified in the dark.
“Despite efforts from Tranz Metro staff, we have been unable to source buses for tomorrow morning’s peak at such short notice," says KiwiRail general manager of passenger services Deborah Hume.
Victoria University will be closed tomorrow as a precautionary measure, while officials assess the buildings for damage. The university will make an official announcement at 4pm tomorrow regarding Tuesday.
All Whitireia Community Polytechnic campuses in Wellington are also closed for Monday, including the film school, performance centre, media centre and Cuba campus.
"While some buildings are damaged and have been evacuated, the city and region has by no means ground to a halt," says Mr Pepperell.
Residents have been tested by the severe quakes this evening, with items crashing off shelves in homes and supermarkets. The fire service was busy, with people stuck in lifts, powerlines down and sprinklers activated in several buildings. There were reports of a water leak outside of the Wellington Library.
"This was up there with the ones in Christchurch, that's for sure," says publisher of The Blenheim Sun Les Whiteside. "But I think we're pretty thankful that it's centred a little bit off the coast of Seddon; otherwise I think if it had been closer there would have been a lot of damage. But [it was] very scary, very scary. We thought we were over all this."
What you need to know:
- Magnitude 6.5 quake struck around 5:09pm Sunday
- Centred 20km east of Seddon, 17km deep
- GeoNet lists quake's intensity as "severe"
- 4 injured in series of aftershocks
- Mercure on Willis St evacuated, believed to be slumping
- Featherston, Wakefield, Bolton, Willis and Webb streets closed
- All KiwiRail services suspended
- Wellington workers advised not to travel to work until at least midday Monday
- Victoria Uni, Whitireia polytech both closed until at least Tuesday
- ACC Wellington, Hutt Valley branches closed for cleanup Monday
- GNS Science: 20pct chance of mag 6 quake in next 24 hours, 30pct chance over the next week