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Severe quakes hit New Zealand capital


15:31, July 21, 2013

WELLINGTON, July 21 (Xinhua) -- A 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook New Zealand capital Wellington and upper South Island on Sunday afternoon, following an earlier 5.8 quake on Sunday morning and a swarm of smaller quakes throughout the day.

New Zealand government geological agency GNS Science said the 6. 5 quake occurred at 05:09 p.m. (05:09 GMT) and was centred 30km east of Seddon, near Blenheim, at a depth of 17km.

A severe earthquakes has just shaken the centre of the country followed by strong aftershocks.

Civil Defence emergency management is checking to see what damage there has been to buildings in Wellington and the top of the South Island.

Another quake, registering 5.5, hit minutes later at 5.13 p.m. at a depth of 5 km, 50 km east of Seddon.

The major quakes are the latest in a swarm of shakes that have been hitting the centre of the New Zealand since Friday.

Some buildings around central Wellington have sustained damage, with glass littering several streets.

The concrete facade of a building in Featherston Street has fallen.

However, the Wellington City Council said at this stage there appears to be no significant damage.

Staff are meeting with the regional council civil defence team, and talking to the fire service and the police to determine the level of response.

A spokesperson told Radio New Zealand it expects to release more information about what residents should do within the next hour.

In the meantime, the council said residents need to take care and remain calm, adding that buildings will all be inspected once it's known where there is damage.

Telecommunication companies are switching to battery power and sirens have been sounding in central Wellington.

Electricity is reported to be out in suburban Karori.

At Wellington Airport, the main runway has been closed for a routine inspection.

All trains from Otaki in the north to Blenheim in the south, including the capital, have been suspended until further notice.

Kiwirail said it is carrying out track inspections, but if the aftershocks continue all commuter and freight trains may be suspended for some time.

A 5.8 quake was centred 30km east of Seddon, near Blenheim, at a depth of 19km at 7.17a.m. on Sunday.

It was preceded by a magnitude 4.2 quake at 7.05 a.m. at a depth of 18km.

GNS Science earlier said more aftershocks can be expected and the chance of a bigger quake is also possible.

Civil Defence said no problems have been reported.

All train services around Wellington were suspended after the quakes and TranzMetro said delays can be expected.

Services on the Wairarapa, Hutt Valley and the Kapiti lines were replaced by bus. The Johnsonville train service has been resumed.

Geophysics professor Euan Smith of Victoria University said the swarm of earthquakes that's hit Wellington and the upper South Island since Friday was not rare, but where they occurred was a little unusual, Radio New Zealand reported.

Smith said they occurred on the interface between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, adding that a larger quake is always possible but people should not worry about the swarms, nor should they be complacent.

A magnitude 5.7 earthquake occurred at 9.06 a.m. on Friday beneath Cook Strait. It was 8km deep and lasted for about 20 seconds.

It was followed by at least 15 aftershocks throughout the day, including a magnitude 4.5 quake near Seddon just after 3 p.m. at a depth of 16km.

Wellington Civil Defence head Bruce Pepperell said Friday that it was not uncommon for quakes of magnitude 5.7 to strike the capital.

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