Severe quake scatters moviegoers

By Nathan Crombie;

A severe earthquake yesterday scattered filmgoers from a Masterton theatre, triggered car alarms in the town and broke glasses in a South Wairarapa pub.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injury late yesterday afternoon in the wake of the 6.5 magnitude shake that struck just after 5pm at a depth of 11 kilometres in the small town of Seddon in coastal Marlborough.

The earthquake reportedly scattered a large family of about 15 adults and children from the upstairs auditorium at Regent 3 Cinema in Masterton, although younger members of the family returned to their seats soon after the shaking ceased.

Masterton fire station officer Doug Flowerday said the earthquake had not triggered any immediate callouts, although Wellington fire crews had been swamped with calls and reports of damage, he said.

PaknSave manager Stuart de Lara Bell said the quake had shaken "a few bits and pieces" from shelves at the Masterton supermarket.

Lake Ferry Hotel bar manager Jo Stevens said the pub was quiet for about five minutes after the shake.

"It was wicked actually. We thought the pub was going to slide down the hill. Our main concern is tsunamis so when we get a shake we watch the water."

Ms Stevens said when the earthquake hit wine glasses had fallen and shattered on the floor. Coastal residents in South Wairarapa were expected to be on tsunami watch last night.

The landline telephone system in Masterton had been overloaded with callers for at least 15 minutes after the large shake, which came on the heels of dozens of aftershocks that followed a 5.8 magnitude quake centred in Cook Strait at 7.17am yesterday.

Most of the tremors have been centred in the strait but there have been earthquakes further south off Kaikoura and as far north as Wanganui. A magnitude 5.7 quake shook the region on Friday.

Geonet classed yesterday's late afternoon quake as severe and was felt as far north as Auckland and as far south as Christchurch. The quake was the strongest in what Geonet are calling "the Seddon sequence".

Comments to the Times-Age Facebook page about the Sunday evening quake talked of houses swaying in Feilding and blinds rocking in Hamilton.

Closer to home, editor Andrew Bonallack and his wife promptly went for doorways as their Featherston cottage began creaking, prompting their dogs to bark in agitation.

Amanda Sim posted it was a "biggie" for Masterton, adding she heard car alarms going off.

Alix Cooper said light shades were swinging severely "for what seemed like forever" at Copthorne Solway Park.

Pippa Cain said it felt big in the Tararuas near Carterton "and went on way too long!"

Journalism lecturer Alan Samson, based in Wellington, posted it was "savage. Worst I've ever felt here."

The Wellington Region Emergency Management Office sent out a text saying there was no tsunami alert.

There were reports of phone and brief power outages in Wellington and office windows broken.


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