While Monday night's magnitude 2.6 earthquake may have been described as light on the Geonet website, there's a reason it didn't feel like that to locals.

GNS seismologist Natalie Balfour said the earthquake was felt so strongly because it was a shallow shake centred very close to Rotorua.

"When earthquakes occur literally right underneath your feet, they will feel very strong," Dr Balfour said. "Site effects can also amplify an earthquake."

She said earthquakes did happen fairly regularly in the volcanic zone that included Rotorua.

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The 9.17pm earthquake was felt by many people in Rotorua and surrounding areas including as far away as Kawerau. The Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page was inundated with posts from locals, many who described the shake as a sharp jolt that shook windows and caused homes to sway.

One person said she thought a car had crashed through her front fence.

Dr Balfour said if anyone had concerns about what to do in an earthquake, the simplest thing to remember was to "drop, cover and hold".

"If people want to learn more about what to do, then I suggest they head to the Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management website. There is lots of information on what to do if an earthquake occurs."