POSTED: 07:36 p.m. HST, Aug 15, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 07:36 p.m. HST, Aug 15, 2013
WELLINGTON, New Zealand >> Strong earthquakes shook central New Zealand on Friday (Thursday night Hawaiii time), damaging homes, destroying a bridge and sending office workers scrambling for cover in the capital.
The first quake, a magnitude-6.5, struck just after 2:30 p.m. near the small South Island town of Seddon. It was followed by several aftershocks of magnitude 5 or stronger.
Police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn said several homes near the epicenter were severely damaged, with chimneys collapsing and roofs caving in. She said a bridge had collapsed on State Highway 1, the major route for traffic near Seddon, and that rocks and debris had fallen onto the road. Police closed a section of the highway.
There were no initial reports of injuries.
Some buildings in Wellington, the capital, were evacuated, and items were knocked off shelves in places.
Police said a number of people were freed from Wellington elevators that stopped working. The initial temblor also temporarily closed down the nation's stock exchange. It was reopened at 3:45 p.m.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the initial temblor was 58 miles west of Wellington at a depth of 6 miles.
Local authorities issued no tsunami warnings.
A quake of similar strength in the same area three weeks ago broke water mains, smashed windows and downed power lines.
New Zealand is part of the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire" that has regular seismic activity. A severe earthquake in the city of Christchurch in 2011 killed 185 people and destroyed much of the city's downtown.