They won’t stop.
A 6.6 earthquake hit New Zealand around 2:31 Universal Time and has been followed by dozens of aftershocks–including a 6.4 magnitude one more than three hours later.
The first earthquake struck in the middle of the country, about 10 kilometers of Seddon, according to GeoNet, the country’s earthquake measuring agency. Several homes near the epicenter were severely damaged, with chimneys collapsing and roofs caving in, said police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn. Staff with local media outlets tweeted out pictures of the damaged buildings (scroll down to the Storify to see these).
Anna Kaiser, a seismologist with GNS, which runs GeoNet, told the New Zealand Herald that the strongest ground shaking recorded near Seddon was .75 times the acceleration due to gravity. The strongest recorded during the devastating Christchurch earthquakes in February was 2.25 times.
Even still, .75 can cause damage.
“That’s strong shaking, so people may have had trouble standing and furniture might move around or things could fall off shelves,” said Kaiser.
Phone service in many areas of the country are extremely busy, so people were being asked to stay off phones unless absolutely necessary and to text instead of calling where possible.
The earthquake and many of the aftershocks were about 27 kilometers or 17 miles south and southwest of Blenheim; 69 kilometers or 43 miles southeast of Nelson; 71 kilometers or 44 miles southeast of Richmond; 91 kilometers or 57 miles southwest of Karori; and 94 kilometers or 58 miles west and southwest of Wellington, according to the United States Geological Service.
The service said that where the eastern margin of the Australian tetonic plate, where the earthquake hit, “is one of the most sesimically active areas of the world due to high rates of convergence between the Australia and Pacific plates.”
All train service in the Wellington region has been temporarily suspended while the tracks are being checked, said the region’s emergency management office. The Wellington Airport re-opened after a runway inspection.
The NZX, the New Zealand stock exchange, halted trading after the first earthquake but has since re-opened.
NOAA’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there’s no widespread tsunami hazard after the earthquakes.
Traffic was clogged in Wellington, where people poured out of their office buildings. Some chose to visit local pubs to wait for traffic to thin, while rail passengers looked for seats in vehicles leaving the city since the trains still aren’t running. Police were assisting in the efforts.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there was no major damage to the city’s infrastructure or office buildings. She said highways had become clogged as people left the city.
“We think this is business as usual,” she said, “but it is going to take a little while for people to get home tonight.”
Besides damage in Seddon, at least one home in Marlborough completely collapsed.
Caroline Little, a seismologist with New Zealand quake monitoring agency GeoNet, said the series of quakes since July had followed an unusual pattern.
“Normally you get a big quake and then the aftershocks get smaller in magnitude,” she said.
Little said the July quake was on a fault line near Seddon that had not previously been mapped. She said it was too early to determine if Friday’s quakes were on that same fault.
A different fault line runs through Wellington, and many in the city fear a major disaster if it were to become active.
See people’s reactions and pictures below
Follow @ETBreakingNews for breaking news from around the world.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.