A minute-long 6.5 magnitude earthquake has shaken the Wellington Region, and other parts of New Zealand, halting trains and damaging Wellington’s Parliament building.
The tremor was centred 35 miles (57 km) off the coast south of the capital at a depth of 6.3 miles, says the US Geological Survey.
But while some structural damage and power cuts have been reported, officials say there is no risk of a tsunami.
The quake hit at 17:09 (05:09 GMT) and was felt as far north as Auckland.
It smashed windows, knocked stock off shop shelves and burst some water pipes, but there have been no reports of serious casualties.
Wellington resident James Barwell said the earthquake had caused power cuts in the city suburbs and prompted the temporary closure of its airport.
“There’s been a bit of structural damage, lots of shattered glass everywhere,” he told the BBC. “Initially there were a few screams and panic, people thought it was another Christchurch.”
A 6.3-magnitude earthquake centred near Christchurch in February 2011 killed 185 people.
Today’s tremor is the latest in a series that have shaken the lower half of the North Island in recent days.
New Zealand lies on the notorious Ring of Fire, the line of frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim
Another series of severe aftershocks rocked close to the capital at about 5:10pm this evening – a magnitude 6.5 quake centred 20km east of Seddon, followed by a 5.5 magnitude quake and a series of smaller, shallow quakes.
The quakes were felt across a large region, as far south as Christchurch. There are reports of power and phone outages in some areas, and reports of damage to some downtown buildings.
Residents have been tested by the severe quakes this evening, with items crashing off shelves in homes and supermarkets. The fire service is busy, with people stuck in lifts, powerlines down and sprinklers activated in several buildings. There are reports of a serious water leak outside of the Wellington Library. There are no reports of injuries.
“This was up there with the ones in Christchurch, that’s for sure,” says publisher of The Blenheim Sun Les Whiteside. “But I think we’re pretty thankful that it’s centred a little bit off the coast of Seddon; otherwise I think if it had been closer there would have been a lot of damage. But [it was] very scary, very scary. The aftershocks keep coming after many people in central New Zealand were woken up by a long, rumbling magnitude 5.8 quake.
The first quake, centred in Cook Strait at a depth of 19km, hit just after 7am today, prompting many people to get out of bed and shelter under doorframes.
It was felt in Wellington, Nelson and Marlborough and GeoNet described its intensity as severe.
The quake has been followed by a flurry of aftershocks, the biggest being a magnitude 6.5, which struck just after 5pm.