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Severe earthquake rocks New Zealand

By Amy R. Connolly

CANTERBURY, New Zealand, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A 6.4 magnitude earthquake and several aftershocks shook New Zealand's South Island Tuesday morning. The quakes are said to be the strongest since 2011, when a magnitude 6.3 killed 185 in the country's second-largest city, Christchurch.

The initial quake was centered north of Methven in the country's Canterbury region but was felt across South Island. Some of the area's rail lines were closed and freight services suspended following the quake. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damages.

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According to GeoNet, New Zealand's official source of geological hazards, the quake was at 6:48 a.m. and was identified as "severe." The quake was followed by several aftershocks, ranging from magnitude 3.2 to 4.2. The USGS reported an 5.6 magnitude earthquake in the same area.

Geonet duty seismologist John Ristau said the aftershocks would continue with the potential for larger quakes.

"We've already had a few above magnitude 4, and it wouldn't be surprising for an earthquake of this size to have an aftershock above magnitude 5 at some point," he said.

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