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The quake that rocked Southland last night has been reported by nzherald.co.nz readers from across the Mainland and parts of the lower North Island.

GNS recorded the quake as measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale at 9.22pm and followed 20 minutes later by a quake measuring 6.1.

The first of the quakes was 5km deep and was centred 90km north-west of the Southland town of Tuatapere.

Tash from Invercargill said it was the most exciting thing to happen in the city in quite a while.

"The earthquake was pretty wild. I was watching TV and I could feel my chair moving so instantly thought it was one of my cats scratching it. I asked my mum which one it was and she looked at me strangely."

She said they both "started freakin' out...running around the lounge grabbing things that might fall" once they realised it was an earthquake.

Chantelle Tou also lives in Invercargill and said the quake "seemed to last forever".

Mike Cockeram lives in near-by Waianiwa and said the quake started "quite small" before it "really began to roll".

"Several of our cupboard doors came open but nothing fell out, thank goodness. I did take a torch and check that there were no cracks in our brick chimney," Mr Cockeram said.

He said he had lived with his wife in Southland for 38 years and could not remember a bigger shake.

Julie from Gore said she was watching TV when the lights began to flicker.

"I had to hold on to my computer, I thought it was going to shake off the table," Julie said.

Anderson from Cromwell in Central Otago said it was the dog that first noticed something was happening and began barking.

"It was like being on a boat in a storm and lasted for so long it made me feel sea sick!"

Roger Verduyn lives in Alexandra and said the rumbling noise of the quake could be heard over the sound of his television and furniture began to move.

"I got out of my chair and opened the door and stood in the opening. I could feel the floor moving as I was holding the door frame," Mr Verduyn said.

He said the water in a small fish tank was moving, "but the fish just kept cruising. Oh, the cat never moved, it remained curled up, sound asleep," Mr Verduyn said.

Bob Thomas was in a hotel room in Queenstown when he felt the quake.

"It was like being in a ship in bad weather on high seas. The coat hangers in the wardrobe shook hard and it was noisy.

"I could hear people running in the corridors. People ran out into the streets," Mr Thomas said.

Fiona Crawford lives in Queenstown and was watching television when the quake struck.

"The whole house rocked, items fell off shelves and we ran into door frames. It lasted about one minute. It didn't seem like it was going to stop. The chandelier rocked immensely - very scary stuff!"

Jorg Penneke lives in the Milford Sounds and said the quake felt like being on a "rolling ship".

The glass cabinet was shaking, the lamp was swinging, so I ran under the door post as the movement got stronger and not less," Mr Penneke said.

Lauren Leicester in Dunedin said she was on her couch when the quake started.

"We have trouble with mice, so instantly thought the vibration under our butts was the movement of our new flatmates," she said.

Val Wilkinson from St Kilda in Dunedin described the quake as a "beauty".

"It knocked our photographs and ornaments off the shelves and terrorised my eight year old granddaughter who was staying with us for the holidays.

"I have experienced a few quakes in my time but this was the biggest and longest lasting," she said.

Mark Peart was in a south Dunedin restaurant when the quake struck and said it was the longest one he has ever felt.

"I have experienced numerous quakes but this was the first one where I began to feel my safety might be at risk if it had persisted much longer," Mr Peart said.

A. Ford from Timaru said their cats got distressed.

"Our first sign of the earthquake was not the shaking but the gentle rocking of items such as pot plants and hanging lights."

Cynthia McCaughan, also from Timaru, said the quake was silent but lasted a long time.

It caused our old clock, which hasn't gone for ages, to start ticking, cords to sway. No damage or breakage"

Further north in Christchurch, Chris Leith said he saw a 25mm - 50mm wave going up and down his swimming pool.

"The flotation tyres were bobbing up and down with the wave motion!"

Abby was at the movies in Christchurch when the screen jerked "and the seats rumbled then it felt like we were swaying sideways and I felt sea sick".

Rachel from Wellington said the quake was felt in the capital.

"It must have been huge down South if we felt it so strongly here," she said.

Lanette Evans lives in a three storey apartment block and said it "shook like hell".

"Our whole flat had to run under tables and into doorways. After the quake you could see people going onto their apartment decks looking to see if there was damage."

Carmen said some parts of the house shook while others didn't.

"I live in Paremata, Wellington and was busy browsing the internet when suddenly my PC screen started quivering and the wooden floor beneath me stared shaking.

"Our house is built on rock with the end part on wooden poles - which was where I was sitting. People in the other part of the house (built on solid earth) didn't feel it."

Jamie Stewart lives in Camborne, "a couple of clicks up the coast from Porirua" and said he was ready to get under the table.

Ms D McKeown said she felt the aftershock in Masterton, in the Wairarapa, and was surprised to discover it had been centred so far south.

Readers from Palmerston North, Wanganui, MartonLevin and New Plymouth said they felt the quake.

Hamilton residents also emailed in. Sue Smith said: "The lights started swinging... for about 15mins.

"We turned on the Radio and heard there was an earth Quake and new it had to be large as to have shaken our lights so much."