6 Jan 2015

Latest in line of big rumbles

2:43 pm on 6 January 2015

The magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Canterbury this morning has had a relatively low impact on residents. It struck 30kms west of Arthur's Pass, shortly before 7am, and several aftershocks as strong as 4.7 have since been registered.

The earthquake was felt most in Methven and Arthur's Pass, where the shaking caused a chimney to fall off a bach.

Co-owner of an Arthur's Pass motel Peter Neale said he was woken just before 7am. He described the earthquake as a big one, but nothing compared to Christchurch in 2011.

"A lot of shaking, wine glasses were rattling in the rack. I think one thing fell off the bookshelf. We've just shifted into a new place, and I haven't secured the bookcases to the wall yet, which isn't very sensible really, but they're still standing. Everything seemed to be okay really."

Rail lines reopen

Two South Island rail lines have reopened after inspections by KiwiRail following this morning's earthquakes.

KiwiRail said the Main North Line and Hokitika Line had been given a safety clearance, with no issues reported.

It was awaiting final clearance on the Stillwater and Midland lines.

KiwiRail said bus replacements were organised for passengers on the TranzAlpine, and freight services on the reopened lines have resumed.

This morning's magnitude 6.0 was the latest in a number of significant quakes and their aftershocks New Zealanders have endured in the past five years, most notably the catastrophic events of 2010 and 2011.

Christchurch and Canterbury

Christchurch earthquake

People walk through debris in the aftermath of the 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch on February 22, 2011. Photo: AFP

A huge 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit near Darfield on 4 September 2010, causing significant damage to parts of Canterbury, although no direct fatalities.

Aftershocks continued, and at 12:51pm on 22nd February 2011, a devastating 6.3 shake caused extensive damage, particularly to the central and eastern areas of Christchurch, and 185 people were killed.

There were frequent sizeable subsequent quakes and aftershocks, including a series of shakes in the days just before Christmas 2011.

At a meeting in January 2012, GNS scientists briefed Christchurch City councillors on the future earthquake risk to the region.

They said aftershocks could continue for decades, but there was unlikely to be any risk of a tsunami off the coast of Canterbury with any quake measuring below magnitude 6.0.

GNS's principal scientist, Dr Kelvin Berryman, warned that aftershocks of up to 5.0 magnitude could be expected in the city for some weeks after the meeting, and lesser aftershocks for a number of years.


A severely damaged cottage in Seddon.

A severely damaged cottage in Seddon. Photo: LAURA JEAN KERSLAKE

The small South Island community of Seddon, near Blenheim, bore the brunt of a series of quakes which were centred in the Cook Strait in July and August 2013.

At 2:31pm on August 16th 2013, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck at a depth of 10km.

Over the next day, there were over a dozen more similar shakes, but smaller aftershocks were still being felt into September and October.

Although no lives were lost, the August earthquake was the largest of a swarm of quakes to affect the upper South and lower North islands and was second only to the Canterbury quakes for the number of damage claims received - over 12,000.

It caused some damage to buildings and was strongly felt in Wellington.

The EQC estimated $50 million of damage had been done.


Eketahuna quake

A shop owner clears stock from his shop floor in the small Wairarapa town of Eketahuna after a strong 6.3-magnitude earthquake. Photo: AFP

The lower North Island was rocked by a strong quake just before 4pm on 20 January 2014. The 6.2 magnitude earthquake damaged homes, caused power cuts and caused minor rock falls.

Although felt at the extreme ends of New Zealand, and more keenly in Masterton and Wellington, it was centred 15km East of Eketahuna, in the Tararua District, near Palmerston North.

Dozens of aftershocks were felt, measuring between magnitude 2.1 and 4.3.

No one was seriously hurt, but the Earthquake Commission said over 5000 insurance claims were made.

'Shaky Isles'

Earthquake-prone New Zealand sits on the edge of the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

The country experiences about 20,000 tremors a year, with an average of 2.5 of magnitude 6.0 or higher, AFP reported.

Wellington was the scene of the country's most powerful earthquake in 1855.

That 8.2 magnitude quake caused four deaths and changed the city's entire geography, pushing the shoreline out 200 metres as it thrust the harbour floor upwards.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs