World News

Southern New Zealand shaken by large quake

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - An earthquake struck the south of New Zealand on Wednesday, triggering a tsunami warning and causing minor damage but no injuries.

The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences said the tremor, measuring magnitude 6.6, struck at 9.22 p.m. (0922 GMT).

The government institute said it was centered in the remote and unpopulated Fiordland region, about 150 km (95 miles) north west of the country’s most southern city, Invercargill. It was measured at around five km (three miles) below ground level.

Local civil defense officials issued a warning about a “potential tsunami” for the region, because of conflicting reports about the quake’s size. The Japanese meteorological agency put the preliminary magnitude at 7.8.

“We’ve had big differences in the measurements of the quake , ranging from 6.6 by GNS Science, to 8.2 by a tsunami warning center in Hawaii -- we’re issuing a precautionary message,” the national civil defense center said in a statement.

Local media said the quake was felt widely throughout the lower South Island, sending goods falling from shop shelves, but said no injuries were reported.

“It was quite a large motion, the whole house was moving, the door was moving in the doorframe, and the fence posts were moving,” Invercargill resident Simon Wilson told Radio New Zealand.

New Zealand scientists record around 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which around 20 top magnitude 5.0.

The last fatal earthquake in the geologically active country, caught between the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates, was in 1968 when an earthquake measuring magnitude 7.1 killed three people on the South Island’s West Coast.

Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Nick Macfie