A ‘severe’ 6.2 magnitude earthquake today caused widespread damage and disruption through much of the southern part of the North Island.
Fortunately on this occasion there were no serious casualties or loss of life during the quake or its subsequent aftershocks. Fifteen people have been locked out of their homes (locks were changed to prevent re-entry) after the three storey Daniels building on Queen Street, Masterton (below) was red stickered due to damage.
The quake shook down a massive model eagle hanging from the ceiling of Wellington airport.
It was on display to promote the Hobbit films in the town which refers to itself as ‘Wellywood.’ The giant fantasy bird fell into an airport dining area when the first quake kicked off at 3.52pm, on one of the busiest days of the holiday season.
Not only is the eagle’s demise a reminder that New Zealand is not middle earth, but the shaky isles but it also raises questions as to the wisdom of placing such a massive structure above the heads of the public.
Surely the people who designed and engineered this construction have a few questions to answer about their proficiency and their reasoning for putting it where they did?
Lauren Stone, 19, was sitting under the eagle with a friend when the quake struck.
“It started shaking heaps and rattling, we jumped under the table,” she said. “The eagle fell on top of us.”
The wing of the giant eagle fell on top of the table and knocked it over, giving Stone a blow on the head.
“We ran away … I definitely know I was hit on the head kind of thing but it didn’t hurt or anything like that.”
People were panicking: mothers screaming for their children. Initially, Stone thought a child may have been hurt.
“I don’t think anyone really saw us, all the mums were screaming, it was quite panicked.”
Natalie Julian, a staff member at the airport’s Donut King store, was nearby when the giant eagle fell.
“I was having lunch about 20 metres away and I caught a glimpse of my workmates looking distressed. I saw the eagle swaying then heard a horrendous noise. It was like the roof was coming down.” source
Lucky no-one was killed.
Update 21 Jan 2014
This is how it was reported abroad (click to enlarge). Source
Scientists believe the Masterton quake wasn’t caused by a fault but was tectonic in origin. New Zealand is perched over a region where the Pacific plate slips underneath the Australian plate. This is called a subduction zone.
“Giant earthquakes likely to occur in New Zealand” and 35 metre high tsunamis
Scientists recently said that earthquakes greater than magnitude 9 only occur in subduction zones.
“GNS duty seismologist Caroline Little said yesterday’s quake was caused by the Pacific tectonic plate “subducting” under the Australian plate, and could not be pinned on an individual fault line.
Late last year, GNS Science released a report showing a tsunami up to 35 metres high could cause as much devastation over Wellington and Napier as the 2011 waves caused in Japan.
Little confirmed the “worst case scenario” would be triggered by the same two plates that caused yesterday’s quake…” source
Professor Wouter Schellart from Monash University said a tsunami generated by a giant earthquake on the Tonga-Kermadec-Hikurangi fault would have the same impact as the Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Waves could reach New Zealand in as little as 10 minutes, giving little time for an effective warning.
Furthermore, according to Professor Schellart, the earth’s crust may’ve already been weakened by the New Zealand earthquakes in 2010/2011:
The deadly earthquakes that shook New Zealand in 2010 and 2011 may have caused a part of the Earth’s crust to weaken. According to researchers, New Zealand is in the Ring of Fire – a narrow zone in the Pacific Ocean wherein 80 per cent of the biggest earthquakes in the world happen.
Most of the world’s earthquakes or 90 per cent also strike along countries in the Ring of Fire. In 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake shook the South Island of New Zealand. The epicenter was close to the center of Christchurch, killing 185 people and totally destroyed or partially damaged 100,000 buildings. The earthquake of 2011 was the costliest one to hit New Zealand, which affected one-sixth of the country’s GDP.” source
Fortunately for Masterton a high number of its earthquake prone buildings were destroyed in a war-time quake in 1942, the Daniels Building must’ve escaped it somehow.
People are starting to notice a link between mass whale strandings and earthquakes in New Zealand. Dozens of pilot whales have been stranded at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay during the last month. Some were helped back into the sea but re-stranded days afterwards.
In January 2013 just before White Island erupted we wrote
…Increased volcanic activity has come at a time when New Zealand has been experiencing swarms of earthquakes, the strongest of which were two shallow quakes near to Whanganui in the North Island and Christchurch in the South Island both on Saturday (see details below) There have also been whale strandings in the last week or so (taken by some as a sign of increased seismic activity) including one on Paraparaumu Beach north west of the capital Wellington…
and in February 2011 the Mirror.co.uk wrote about theories that the bizarre deaths of more than 100 stranded pilot whales may’ve been a warning of an impending earthquake:
…In the latest bizarre incident on Sunday, less than 48 hours before the earthquake hit, a pod of whales beached themselves near Cavalier Creek on Stewart Island.
Discussing the earthquake and whale deaths on Twitter, Kate Redman ‘DolphinSeeker30’ asked: “could the stranding of 100 pilot whales be linked to the earthquake?”
CodeNameTanya tweeted: “Over a hundred pilot whales beached themselves in New Zealand and then the earthquake. Wonder if tectonic plate shifts confuse whales. Hmmm.”
VeganWheekers asked: “Could there be a connection between the 107 whales that died on New Zealand beach yesterday and today’s earthquake?” while TV New Zealand added: “has anyone noticed the correlation between beached whales and earthquakes?”… more here and here