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Strong quake rocks New Zealand

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 strikes New Zealand but there are no immediate reports of injuries.

world Updated: Dec 20, 2007 16:41 IST

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 struck New Zealand's North Island late on Thursday, causing considerable damage in the city of Gisborne but there were no immediate reports of serious injury, officials said.

Police said buildings and roads were damaged, but no tsunami warning was issued for the quake which was centred in the sea to the southeast of Gisborne, a city of around 42,000 people.

"There were holes opening up in some streets, partial building collapses in some areas," a central police communications spokesman said.

"We have got a lot of damage and are still assessing the situation," a police spokesman from Gisborne said shortly after the quake.

Civil Defence had been activated and they were carrying out emergency plans. "There have not been a lot of injuries reported yet but a contingency plan was being activated at the hospital."

Civil Defence national director John Hamilton said there were sketchy reports of ambulances being called out, but no details of any injuries were immediately available.

Power was cut in Gisborne but restored to many areas of the city within an hour. The 6.8 tremor struck at 8:55 pm (0755 GMT) with a depth of 40 kilometres (25 miles) and was centred in the Pacific Ocean, 50 kilometres southeast of Gisborne, the government seismology agency GNS Science said.

Vance Walker of the Gisborne District Council said three buildings had collapsed in the centre of the city but no casualties were believed to have occurred.

The earthquake was felt across much of the country. There have been numerous earthquakes in the region recently, including a strong 7.6 magnitude quake near the Auckland Islands south of New Zealand on September 30.

New Zealand lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where colliding plates in the earth's crust cause frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.