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Published: Sunday, 7/21/2013

Magnitude 6.5 earthquake strikes New Zealand coast


New Zealanders ran screaming from buildings in Wellington yesterday as a magnitude 6.5 earthquake blew out windows and caused part of the city’s port to slide into the sea.

The earthquake hit at 5:09 p.m. local time, 35 miles south-southwest of the capital city, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was stronger than the magnitude 6.3 quake that killed 185 people in the South Island city of Christchurch two years ago.

The powerful shake, which lasted about 20 seconds, threw goods from store shelves and caused people to run from buildings such as movie theaters, eyewitnesses said. Four people were hospitalized with minor injuries, state broadcaster TVNZ reported. There were no reports of fatalities.

Downtown Wellington was largely deserted this morning as aftershocks continued to shake the city. Civil Defense advised people to stay at home until at least noon. Parts of the central business district are cordoned off as smashed glass and debris is removed from sidewalks and engineers assess the safety of high-rise office towers.

“We’d prefer people to stay away while we finish the job,” Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon told Radio New Zealand. “There is certainly glass that’s come out of windows throughout the CBD area.”

Major services such as water, sewerage, power and gas are running smoothly, though train services have been halted as tracks are checked, he said.

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