Civil Defence has been out looking for damage in Whanganui following the 5.8 magnitude earthquake which struck the lower North Island this morning.

Whanganui District Council emergency manager Tim Crowe said no obvious damage had been found so far.

"It was a big one but distant, I imagine closer to Levin would have felt it more.

"It's a reminder that we are business as usual, just because there's Covid on we've always been prepared for a second event during a pandemic so this just reminds us that life still goes on."

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Geonet has revised the quake's depth to 37km, 30km northwest of Levin. Originally it said it was a 5.9 magnitude quake, and later revised that to 5.8.

It struck at 7.53am and was categorised as "strong", arriving with a loud rumble in Whanganui.

It was long and rolling with a few sudden lurches but didn't lose its intensity for about 30 seconds.

The quake has been felt as far north as Gisborne and near the bottom of the South Island, according to Geonet.

Manager of The Mothered Goose in Bulls, Jaimee Simpson, said she did not usually feel earthquakes inside the cafe but as she was putting muffins in the oven she got a huge fright.

Rangitikei mayor Andy Watson said it was a big enough earthquake to cause damage. Photo / File
Rangitikei mayor Andy Watson said it was a big enough earthquake to cause damage. Photo / File

"I'm absolutely petrified of them and I was in here on my own so I had a bit of a meltdown," she said.

Simpson said there was no damage to the cafe and they are now all safe.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said the earthquake was pretty sudden and came in strong and hard.

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"It was a very jittery quake and it got a bit stronger but I was very impressed the kids automatically went under the breakfast table."

He said it was the strongest he had felt since the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016.

"It's a good reminder that we live on fairly seismic active land and we just have to make sure we have enough water for three or four days and the things that can fall over are tied back."

Rangitikei mayor Andy Watson said he hadn't received any reports of damage "as yet".

"It was enough of a roll to cause some damage.

"Let's wait and see. When it struck, I thought 'uh oh, I hope this isn't Christchurch', because that would have been huge."

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Owner of Jolt Coffee House, Mark Dyhrberg, said there were about six people in the cafe at the time.

"[It] just started off small, a bit of a jolt for a lack of better words, and then she was over. Lasted a while though didn't it? No one was injured and nothing damaged."