6.5 earthquake strikes near Wellington, New Zealand

NBC News – by Gil Aegerter

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck central New Zealand near the capital on Sunday, prompting flights in and out of the nearby airport to be suspended, according to local reports.

Nevertheless, initial reports indicated damage was light. The Pacific tsunami warning center did not issue a tsunami warning.

One News reported on its website that all flights in and out of Wellington Airport were suspended indefinitely amid fears of damage to equipment.  

The quake hit just after 5 p.m. local time and was centered about 35 miles south-southwest of Wellington in the narrow Cook Strait between the northern and southern islands, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on its website. The USGS originally said the quake registered 6.9 but later revised that figure.

“We’ve had one report of structural damage so far, but as far as I know, power in the city is still on,” said a spokesman at the capital’s fire station, according to Reuters.

The area on the northern island around Wellington, the capital, is home to about 400,000 people. The small town of Seddon was just east of the epicenter on the southern island.

A reporter for a Wellington television network who was in Christchurch during the deadly 2011 quake said that Sunday’s quake felt as bad.

“It’s scary … there’s not a lot of damage but it was terrifying,” said reporter Jessica McCarthy, One News reported.

Central New Zealand had been hit by a swarm of earthquakes in recent days, including a 5.7 on Friday and a 5.8 Sunday morning, The Dominion Post newspaper reported on its website. It displayed a map that showed the epicenters grouped just east of Seddon.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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