7.4 quake strikes New Zealand, none dead and minimal damage

September 3, 2010 21:29

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A powerful 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck much of New Zealand's South Island early Saturday. No tsunami alert was issued and there were no reports of injuries or serious damage.

The quake, which hit 19 miles (30 kilometers) west of the southern city of Christchurch, shook a wide area with radio reports saying items were tossed from store shelves and roof tiles cracked by the strong temblor.

The earthquake was 21 miles (33 kilometers) below the Earth's surface, the geological agency GNS Science said.

The temblor hit at 4:35 a.m., shaking thousands of residents awake, New Zealand's National Radio reported.

Christchurch police reported some road damage and power outages in parts of the city of 400,000 people, with a series of sharp aftershocks rocking the area.

New Zealand sits above an area of the Earth's crust where two tectonic plates collide. The country records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year — but only about 150 are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 a year do any damage.

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