Wellington struck by more severe quakes – 16 August

As I write at 5.30 pm, my desk is rocking to three quakes in quick succession, the largest at magnitude 6.3. These are just the latest in a string that have hammered my city, Wellington in a few hectic hours this afternoon, just a month after another swarm that, we were all hoping, might be over.

Soon after the biggest – a 6.6 magnitude shock – swept over the city at 2.31 pm, the streets were filled with cars and people, getting out of town. Here’s a photo I took with my phone looking across to Parliament buildings, at the base of Molesworth street.

Pedestrians and cars at the bottom of Molesworth Street, Wellington, after the magnitude 6.6 shock of 16 August. Aftershocks up to 5+ magnitude were still rolling in when I took this.

Pedestrians and cars in unusual number at the bottom of Molesworth Street, Wellington, after the magnitude 6.6 shock of 16 August. Aftershocks up to 5+ magnitude were still rolling in when I took this.

Really, of course, we have to think of these quakes as a single large event – one with punctuated movements. What’s more, there have been other quakes around the country, likely triggered by the latest re-eruption. The ones rocking Wellington are all centred on a fault line under Cook Strait, near the South Island town of Seddon – which has taken a severe hammering.

I’d like to extend a very warm and grateful thanks to all those who got in touch with me, within a few minutes of the news spreading – and from as far away as the US – to ask how things were going. I very much appreciate your kind thoughts – thank you.

There are no injuries reported. More soon.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

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24 comments on “Wellington struck by more severe quakes – 16 August

  1. lidipiri says:

    Scary, isn’t it? Such a sense of impotence when it happens. Hope all is well with you and yours.

    • Thank you – yes, we’re fine. No injuries reported at all around the region so far, which is wonderful. Our seismologists report that this swarm will likely continue. I have to admit that for me it is not scary – for various reasons I don’t seem to ever feel fear. But it does mean we have to take sensible care.

  2. naimeless says:

    Just catching up on reading now. Glad to hear you’re safe. :-) Reminds me of Oz again, and just how small a part of the universe we really are.

    • We are. And these quakes reveal just how humbled we should be before the power of nature. Each of the 6+ events this afternoon has released more energy than a megaton-scale nuclear weapon – and they are NOT the ‘big one’ that we expect here, either.

  3. Glad to hear you’re OK. I hate those doggone things and always am reminded of the comment (made by Billy Graham, I think) that earthquakes are Gods way of speaking to us and letting us know he’s displeased.”

  4. Mentis Fugit says:

    Our senior management got very antsy after the July quake, and as a result, there are two or three of my team working from home (more wonders of the Internet) each day of the week. Today was my turn, and while it was certainly an impressive rattle – possibly the strongest I’ve felt – nothing in the house was dislodged from its perch, mount, or hanging. Our house is a concrete raft on clay, which is a curse for getting plants established, but seems to make for a pretty safe platform.
    Meanwhile, everyone in the office got sent home. They’ll likely try to get an engineer’s inspection done over the weekend, and I expect we’ll be back in on Monday.
    The cellular network took a bit of a hammering: getting a voice call connected was a lottery, and text messages sometimes took a while to get through. This was Matthew’s experience too, I have no doubt.
    I really wouldn’t want to be living in Seddon these days, I’ll say.

    • Absolutely. Landline was OK, email still worked; but I had trouble making the sole cell connection I needed (‘you’ll never use those carry-over minutes’). Texts were OK. Human stress on the infrastructure as opposed to quake damage.

      Today’s quake was certainly the strongest I’ve felt. It beat the mW 5.6 Napier quake of 6 October 1980 (I was basically on top of the epicentre then, and the ‘felt intensity’ was about VI on the MM scale). It also beat the July 19 2013 Wellington quake on my personal perception of it, though the technical ‘felt intensity was about the same at VI. The aftershocks since have been running to about IV/V where we are..

      Will be interesting to see whether any further buildings are condemned – ‘Druids Chambers/Woodward House’ has been closed since the July quakes, along with the main parking buildings. I see Te Papa’s been closed despite the fact that it’s geared to resist anything up to about mW 8. And they were half way through fixing the two that banged together on Featherston Street in July.

  5. I didn’t know they struck again, glad you are okay. What a scary time not knowing if the next one will be bigger or when it will be – yikes!
    There’s another blogging friend who had a monsoon heading towards him, what’s going on?

    • It’s amazing how things collide like that. Certainly Wellington has had a rough spin these last few months – a monster storm that did a lot of damage, including to the infrastructure; then a quake sequence that looks uneasily as if it’s a downstream consequence of the Christchurch sequence that began in 2010. It happens, but it would be nice if it was better spread out…

  6. Just heard about it on our news (Western Australia). We think of you folks… and pray for you. It must be so ‘disconcerting’… or downright scary. Be careful
    Cheers
    Susan

    • Thanks – and much appreciated. Definitely disconcerting & requiring due thought, though for me, at least, it hasn’t been particularly scary; I don’t seem to feel fear these days, But it’s certainly a heads-up for taking due precautions, including putting the TV set on the floor and moving stuff around the house in ways it won’t fall over. Our seismologists think it’s driven by a new fault which has activated and is, in effect, in constant movement just now – expressed, in the form of over 2000 quakes detectable on the seismic system since July,luckily most of them unnoticeable to human senses…but indicative of what’s happening. It’ll likely go on for some time, too. Ouch.

  7. Maybe all the ‘little ones’ means the ‘big one’ won’t hit. Hopefully all of the pent-up energy will be released in increments.

    • Our seismologists are looking specifically into that – the news, alas, isn’t great; the current sequence seems to be a new fault and there’s a chance it’s ‘wound up’ tensions in the main Wellington fault that’s expected to cause the ‘big one’. But not to any great extent, apparently. Curiously, the mW 6.6 quake triggered a lot of small quakes around the country on some quite remote fault lines – a kind of echo effect, it seems. There’s certainly plenty of science being done around it – our Geological and Nuclear Sciences department has got some excellent data, improved since July with the addition of more seismographs in the district. I’m confident in the expertise – they’re top-notch scientists and get, shall we say, rather a lot of practise.

  8. Glad you’re staying safe so far, will keep you and your family in my prayers!

  9. I’m relieved to hear that you’re okay and there haven’t been fatalities. We get quakes here about once every ten years or so and only one was sufficient for me to even notice. It was unnerving, yet not a fraction of what you’re experiencing. When nature flexes its muscles in such a way, or unleashes hurricanes and tornadoes, it’s interesting to note how it incites both wonder and fear at the same time. Please stay safe.

    • Thanks – and much appreciated. It’s part of life in New Zealand, unfortunately, though the cluster we’re experiencing now is unusual for my generation. They seem to come in decades-long clusters here, and for various reasons the late twentieth century wasn’t too active. We were always told ‘prepare for the quake’ – and have. But although there were various odd jolts, nothing too much happened. Then those faults under Christchurch ‘woke up’ and now the one under Cook Strait is active. I suspect it’s causal, though proof will have to wait on due science – our seismologists are looking pretty closely into this at the moment. All we can do is accept what happens, be sensible – and be prepared.

      As I wrote that comment, another aftershock rolled through, shaking the desk – mW 4.7 on the real-time data. Follows several 5+ shakes overnight.

      • Gives me new appreciation for the size of our planet when I’m sitting at my non-shaking desk as yours is jumping about. At the same time, modern technology makes it feel as though a neighbor is experiencing these quakes when you’re actually half-a-world away. Having been born before satellites I still have these moments of wonder.

  10. […] Around 4 pm the house began shaking – slowly at first and then quite violently. We get a lot of small quakes. This wasn’t one of them. In fact, it seemed up there with last year’s big quakes. […]

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