The Debate

Large 6.5 Quake Strikes Near New Zealand Capital

There are reports of extensive but mostly minor damage, and two injuries.

New Zealand’s capital Wellington was rattled by a magnitude 6.9 quake on Sunday, which  The quake had its epicenter about 35 km off the coast in the Cook Strait, which separates the North and South Islands of New Zealand. It left parts of the Wellington without power, broke water mains and shattered windows across central New Zealand. Images show goods falling from shelves and debris on the streets.

Authorities are reporting at least injuries, including one person hit by a falling television, but no fatalities. There is apparently no risk of tsunami – an offshore earthquake needs to be of at least 7.5 magnitude for that to happen, according to experts. Emergency services are checking for structural damage.

The earthquake was the latest in a serious of quakes that had been shaking the central New Zealand area since last Thursday. Striking at just after 5:00 pm New Zealand time, the tremor has apparently damaged New Zealand’s parliament building, and temporarily closed the airport. It was preceded Sunday morning with a swarm of quakes in the Cook Strait, between Blenheim and Wellington.

Scientists are suggesting that the Sunday evening quake is likely not the last in the serious, but are hoping that it is the biggest. Aftershocks were occurring Sunday evening and expected to continue for days. Rail services are cancelled Monday morning, to allow officials to assess any damage. Mobile and landline networks were down briefly after the quake struck, but service has now been restored. Initial reports suggest no damage to state highways.

Situated on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, New Zealand was rocked in February 2011 by a major quake that struck near Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, on the South Island. That event left 185 people dead and caused extensive damage, making it the country’s fourth deadliest peacetime disaster. It was followed the next month by a devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.