Wellington train services resume after 6.5 quake lockdown

UPDATED: Rail network reopens – no damage reported.

UPDATE / 1.20pm:

All lines on Wellington's rail network have reopened after the completion of all inspections to check on damage after last night’s earthquake.

The Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, Johnsonville and Kapiti lines are all now back to normal.

Wellington City Council and Civil Defence are still asking people to avoid the Wellington CBD area for the rest of the day to give crews time to fully assess and clean up any damage.

Passengers also need to be aware that if there any strong aftershocks, services may need to be stopped while track inspections are again undertaken, they say.

Johnsonville Line: Regular timetable resumes with the 1.02pm from Wellington to Johnsonville, and 1.30pm from Johnsonville to Wellington.

Kapiti Line: Service resumes with a reduced timetable.

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July 22 / 10am: 

The Wellington Region Emergency Management Office asked workers in the Wellington CBD to not come into the office until at least midday today to allow for building checks.

Wellington City Council says there have been reports of structural damage to between 10 and 20 buildings.

They include the damaged Mercure Hotel, where some sections of surrounding streets have been closed off. Police have placed cordons on Featherston St  between Whitmore and Johnston streets, and Wakefield St along Welling City Council frontage and Bolton St by the Bolton Hotel. However, the Mercure has now been reopened and street closures are expected to be lifted shortly.

Tranz Metro has suspended all rail services until at least mid-morning, with no bus replacement services.

Victoria University is closed for the day. The council is open, but operating on a skeleton staff.

Wellington Airport reopened at 7.30pm last night following runway and navigation system checks.

The capital's financial trading rooms are closed but contingency plans means this won't freeze national liquidity.

The Reserve Bank's payments and settlements are operating as normal, and the NZX was scheduled to open as normal.

Telecommunications network operator Chorus has closed 24 buildings across Wellington, Blenheim and Seddon to ensure safety of workers, which it said may cause some disruption.

Centreport general manager of operations Steve Harris says the capital's port company has closed its container area in the meatime. It expects to be able to handle a container vessel due this afternoon.

Most of the damage is on reclaimed land, of which they have "lost about five to10 metres".

In the small town Seddon, near Blenheim, the Red Cross has opened an emergency centre in the Seddon Rugby Club for residents whose homes have been damaged. Residents whose homes are undamaged have been asked to stay put, but to boil drinking water. There were reports of light property damage, with a chimneys falling off a couple of homes and some cracking.

There were swarms of aftershocks overnight and early this morning. The largest was 4.9 around 3am. Scientists say larger shakes are possible.

“Things have settled down quite nicely," Wellington Regional Civil Defence Manager Bruce Pepperell said this morning.

"It’s very important people understand this is not a Christchurch situation."

There were some buildings with serious cracking, Mr Pepperell said, but there had also been "over-reporting" of damage.

His advice to stay out of the CBD until midday was mostly precautionary, the Civil Defence boss said.

Power, temporarily lost to around 3500 homes, is now back on around the region.


6.5 quake strikes near Wellington

UPDATE:  Another big quake has hit near Wellington. GeoNet puts the 5.09pm jolt at 6.5.

Like the 5.8 quake that woke the capital this morning, its epicentre was in Cook Strait, 30km north of Seddon.

The 20-second shake was felt as far north as Papakura and as far south as Christchurch.

A series of aftershocks followed, measuring between 3.7 and 5.8.

LATEST: Welly quakes likely to continue, and some could be larger - geophysics Prof

Accounts of minor damage were widespread but Civil Defence says four people have been hospitalised with injuries, all minor. One man was reportedly knocked out when a TV set fell on his head.

A number of CBD buildings have structural damage, Civil Defence says. They include the Mercure Hotel on Willis St which was evacuated after reports one corner of the building sunk 5cm.

Central Wellington workers have been told not to come in until midday Monday to allow building checks 

Science Media Centre manager Peter Griffin, who lives in the centre of town, told NBR Online there were several buildings in the CBD with smashed windows. 

Police have asked people to avoid the CBD, where glass from broken windows litters many streets, along with minor masonry damage. Civil Defence says there is a risk of falling debris. Sections of Featherston St, Wakefield St and Bolton St are closed.

Security cameras caught goods spilling from supermarket shelves.

The most dramatic photos show damage to the private road around the south end of King's wharf, where the Bluebridge ferry Santa Regina and Strait Shipping berth.

Wellington harbourmaster Captain Mike Pryce told Radio NZ about 15 metres of the south end of the reclamation area has slumped into the harbour and there are massive cracks the whole way around.

There have been sporadic reports of phone and power outages in the upper South Island and lower North Island, including the Wellington suburb of Karori - where power went off but was restored within the hour.

As of 9.30pm, power was still out in Seddon (near Blenheim) and some parts of Marlborough. There are also reports of damage to houses in Seddon.

Wellington Airport was briefly closed for runway inspection but is now reopened. 

Telecommunications network operator Chorus says its network was not damaged.

Smashed windows at Quest on Willis in the CBD (via @Kalena)

"It's the biggest shake we've had in more than 16 years living here," NBR's Rob Hosking says.

"We're dug into rock on the unfashionable side of Mt Victoria  and we often don't feel them but bloody hell, we felt those ones.

"We're now checking supplies of food an water and charging up batteries of cellphones. And our glasses. " 

The location of this evening's 6.5 quake, plus today's aftershocks. Click to zoom.

Featherston St (@abezanilla)

Victoria University law library (@arniesean)

A crack in the ceiling on the 17th floor of the James Cook Grand Chancellor in the Wellington CBD hotel (@Kalena)

Kalena Jordan (aka @Kalena) tells NBR, "All guests have been moved from Terrace floors (older side) to Lambton Quay side (more modern).

Glass covers Featherston St (@abezanilla)

Minor spillage inside Xero's headquarters on the intersection of Jervois Quay with Cable and Wakefield streets (via @roddury). 

Video of a water in a swimming pool roiling in Paraparaumu, 55km up the coast from the centre of Wellington, as the 5.09pm 6.5 quake strikes (it was originally reported by GeoNet as 6.8).

After a brief period of shock, gallows humour returned on many Twitter accounts. "Post quake shot of @barrysoper 's desk. Looks exactly the way it did before today's shake," Newstalk ZB's @FelixMarwick tweeted at 7.25pm.


5.8 quake wakes Wellington

EARLIER / Sunday July 20: Wellingtonians were awoken by a 5.8 magnitude  quake at 7.17am this morning.

It was the capital's second major shake in three days, and was centred around the same location - the middle of Cook Strait - according to an initial GNS GeoNet report. It struck at a depth of 19km.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

The main quake was followed by a cluster of aftershocks in the mid 3s, with one at 4.2 magnitude (the main shock was revised upward from the initially calculated 5.6).

"Longer, more shaky" than Friday
"This quake was definitely longer than the last and a little more shaky,"  cloud computing consultant Ian Apperley told NBR ONLINE.

"It got the lights swinging and the china cabinet definitely rattling," 

Mr Apperley lives on the south coast, near the airport.

He added at 7.36am, "It's a bit like being on a boat here at the moment with a bunch of barely perceptible aftershocks, just enough to make the house creak and lights swing a little. We’ll need to change our city moniker to 'Shakiest Little Capital' at this rate."

"Shaky shaky rolling for about 15 seconds in Karori," tweeted journalist Alistair Thompson just after the 7.17am major quake.

It was felt north of the city, too. "Another meaningful jolt and roll in Lower Hutt," tweeted US Ambassador David Huebner.

Lots of wobbly aftershocks
At 7.31am software developer Layton Duncan tweeted, "Lots of little wobbly aftershocks. Kind of glad it was only a small quake. Screw sitting through months of aftershocks again."

Mr Duncan gained profile after being one of the first to tweet the initial Christchurch quake. The rebuild critics left the city last year for a job with Xero in the capital.

Initial reports indicated the quake was not as strongly felt in Wellington as the main shock in Friday's quake cluster, with only superficial signs of the rumble going through. Broadcaster Barry Soper tweeted a photo of his freestanding TV, which had been knocked back against the wall.

Tranz Metro delayed all services to carry out an inspection of its rail network. Buses have replaced scheduled trains this morning.


Cluster of quakes in Cook Strait shake capital, Marlborough

Friday July 19: Thousands of people in Wellington and Marlborough had an intense start to their Friday as a shallow magnitude 5.7 earthquake occurred 30 km east of Seddon, says GeoNet.

There were reports of some capital residents screaming and diving under desks, but also limits to the drama. NBR's Wellington correspondent, who lives in a home dug into rock on the unfashionable southern slopes of Mt Victoria, felt nothing.

"Apparently the house did shake but I was reading about RBNZ regulation of loan-to value-ratios at the time and didn't notice," he reports.

Cloud computing consultant Ian Apperley lives on the capital's south coast, and felt the quake rumble through his kitchen table on its way to the CBD.

"I live in the hills in Strathmore Park, close to the airport and Cook Strait," he tells NBR ONLINE.

"It started as a gentle roll and then built up to a good shaking, all the glassware and china in the cabinets was doing a merry dance and the dogs went ballistic," he says.

"I considered getting under the kitchen table, but it seemed, embarrassing to be honest.

"By the time I’d had that thought it was all over - though you could swear the ground was swaying just ever so slightly over the next few minutes, a little like being on a boat on a really calm day."

In its more breathless official account, GeoNet notes "The fact that it struck in the Cook Strait meant that we were spared the full force of the earthquake, GNS says, though a handful of people have reported that the quake had a damaging intensity. Within an hour of the earthquake, over 6000 people have submitted 'felt' reports."

The 5.7 earthquake was preceded by a mag 2.9 'foreshock' which occurred in the same location 6 minutes before the main shock. 

There have also been numerous aftershocks (so far 17 aftershocks) in the region, the largest at the time of writing is a magnitude 3.7, 30km east of Seddon, GNS says.

These aftershocks are likely to continue for the next 24 hours.

Early analysis of the quake, much to small to cause a tsunami, has the fault movement as 'reverse faulting' meaning that each side of the fault is being compressed.

An offshore earthquake needs to be at least magnitude 7.5 for a tsunami to be considered possible, GeoNet says.

The 1855 magnitude 8.2 Wairarapa earthquake is New Zealand's most severe quake since European colonisation, which produced a tsunami with a maximum height of 10-11m at Palliser Bay, the tsunami also inundated Lambton Quay, where it reached a height of 2.4m.

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