Amadeusz Juskowiak

Strong earthquake hits new zealand

An earthquake measuring 65 on the Richter scale caused widespread damage in northern New Zealand and a civil defence emergency was declared in some areas officials and seismologists said

There were no immediate reports of casualties The quake jolted the Bay of Plenty and Waikato areas

The town of Whakatane was said by officials to be virtually isolated

A civil defence emergency was declared in Whakatane which has about 16000 people Officials said many roads and bridges in the area had been damaged

No deaths were reported but one man was admitted to hospital in serious condition after his car was buried in a mud slip

Seismologists said Whakatane was hit by three earthquakes the strongest measuring 65 on the Richter scale They were followed by a series of aftershocks

The quakes were felt across the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions in the northeast of the North Island

Smaller tremors had been felt in the Bay of Plenty for more than a week

Police said many districts lost power supplies and telephone links

Energy Ministry officials ordered the release of water behind the Matahina hydroelectric dam 32 kilometres above Whakatane on the Rangitaiki river The quake cracked the roadway and concrete abutment along the top of Matahina the largest earth dam in the North Island

REUTER