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Large earthquake hits lower North Island

Monday 20 Jan 2014 3:57 p.m.

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A strong 6.2 earthquake in the lower NorthIsland has damaged property and cut power to thousands, but injuries appear to be minor.

The quake, which struck shortly after 3:50pm, was centered 15km east of Eketahuna at a depth of 33km. It was felt widely throughout the Wellington and Marlborough regions.

GeoNet lists the initial quake's intensity as "severe" and more than 7900 people have reported feeling it. A series of moderate aftershocks greater than magnitude 4 followed shortly after.

Emergency services were kept busy with calls but ambulance staff said what injuries were reported were minor.

An ambulance spokesman said he'd heard of two people who suffered minor injuries after falls in Palmerston North, which may have been related to the quake, but there were no other reports of injuries.

Powerco says the quake caused power cuts to 5600 customers on its electricity network, affecting customers in and around Eketahuna, Alfredton, Palmerston North, Feilding and as far north as Manaia in Taranaki. There are also reports of damage at some power sites.

About 1600 were still without power by 7pm, and Powerco operations manager Phil Marsh says the majority of customers should have power back this evening. Some cellphone coverage has also been affected.

Inspector Mike Coleman of police communications said rockfalls reduced the Manawatu Gorge between Palmerston North and Woodville to one lane, but most other road damage was to minor roads.

Despite the quake coinciding with the end of Wellington Anniversary weekend, traffic was also flowing smoothly, he said.

TranzMetro has suspended all services in the capital so that tracks, bridges and tunnels can be inspected. All services will be replaced with buses, but commuters are warned to expect delays.

Photos posted to Twitter show the eagle installed at Wellington Airport to promote The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has fallen down. Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said the eagle fell slowly, giving most people a chance to get out of the way, though Fairfax reported one woman who got under a table after the quake started was struck lightly by the eagle's wing.

The Mayor of Tararua District Roly Ellis has been monitoring the situation from Dannevirke fire station.

He told 3 News there have been no reports of more significant damage.

"People have lost household china but there are no major catastrophes that I know of," Mr Ellis said.

Fire crews were heading to a possible gas leak in Woodville and Pahiatua.

Much of the impact was in Eketahuna, a small town about 40km north of Masterton, where numerous objects came off shelves and toppled furniture.

Gas Eketahuna Service Station owner Lisa Seator said she lost power for about 15 minutes, her microwave ended up in the middle of the floor and fridges tipped over.

"It was very violent and went on for quite a while," she said.

"It gave us a good shake."

The council offices in Eketahuna have been evacuated. A recorded message informed callers that those inside had been forced to leave due to an emergency.

One Wellington resident told 3 News the initial quake shook his house for approximately 10 seconds, while Palmerston North resident Jordan said the quake "suddenly and forcefully shoved" his house.

"We didn't really know what to do because our flat is kit-set – and basically made of paper," he said. "We just stood in the lounge having heart attacks. Even the dogs were shaking and whining."

Rosie, who lives in Feilding, said the quake rolled on for longer than usual.

"Glassware had fallen out of the kitchen cupboards and broken on the floor during the quake, but nothing major was damaged," she says.

"I tried to move underneath my computer desk as it started, but got flung backwards instead. It was quite scary."

More than 30 aftershocks, the highest being of magnitude 4.3, have been recorded since the first quake.

3 News/NZN

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