A moderate earthquake has rocked the Whanganui region this afternoon.

Geonet said the 4.6 tremor struck at 12.54pm and was located 20km south-west of Whanganui.

It was described as moderate in intensity and 35km deep.

The earthquake was preceded by a loud rumbling noise, which many commenters on the Wanganui Chronicle Facebook page likened to a train or truck passing by.

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Colvin Molineux said he was at home when the earthquake struck, and initially thought something had crashed into his house.

"[There's] no damage except I nearly needed some new pants," Mr Molineux said.

Leila Mallett was in Aramoho and described it as a "pretty good deep shake".

"Heard the rumble which just sounded like the train going by... next minute a big jolt and then the shaking."