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‘Decent shake’ but no damage reported

A strong 5.3 magnitude earthquake yesterday left people 'shaking' and one building swaying 'like a Tahitian dancer', but no real damage.

Building manager and former mayoral candidate Ross Meurant praised Gisborne's focus on strengthening previously quake-prone buildings in the CBD.

Mr Meurant paid tribute to Eastland Engineering, Dawson Building Co, Shayne Mcnaught Builders and Napier Structural Design for the quality of their contributions to lifting the old post office building in Grey Street to 95 percent earthquake standards.

'The building swayed substantially like a Tahitian dancer but after-shake checks by Elite Fire Protection confirmed no damage — not even a window crack.

'As managing director of the building I am delighted at this outcome.'

The tremor happened at 12.58pm and was located 20 kilometres south of Gisborne, off shore between Gisborne and Mahia at a depth of 28km, Geonet reported.

More than 1800 people reported feeling the earthquake but New Zealand Fire and Emergency said they were not called out.

One resident reported hearing creaking as he sat outside a city centre cafe, while another said she went immediately to check on a painter who was working on a neighbour's roof.

The female painter was unhurt but 'shaking' when the rumbling stopped, she said.

Another resident described it as 'very strong and uncomfortable' in Ballance Street Village.

One person reported a cracked hallway ceiling.

Tairawhiti Civil Defence confirmed there was no tsunami threat.

'The earthquake was a strong shake that was widely felt but the duration was short, indicating no tsunami threat,' a statement said.

Briscoes, Rebel Sports and Farmers all closed down following the earthquake after items fell from shelves.

Briscoe Group chief executive Rod Duke said Briscoes and Rebel Sport closed as 'a matter of course' for the remainder of the day.

'We suffered a little product damage at Briscoes, nothing at Rebel. So we've lost a couple of glasses and some plates and some cups and saucers but nothing substantial. We closed just as a matter of course just to quickly have the building inspected and we expect both to be open today.'

Pak'nSave owner Ewan Atherton said the grand sum of the damage was two packets of nappies, and two bottles of shampoo shaken off the shelves.

'It just goes to show we live on the shaky isles. Like everyone else our hearts go out to everyone who suffered on Whakaari (White Island),' said Mr Atherton.

Coastal schools put into practice their regular tsunami drills, in the event of a 'long or strong' earthquake.

The decision was made to evacuate Tolaga Bay Area School, 'because we only have so much time here, but it was still worth the exercise,' an Uawa Civil Defence team member said. Staff and pupils 'went up the hill after we felt the earthquake', the team member said.

Wainui Beach School principal Nolian Andrew said the pupils followed the drill perfectly during yesterday's earthquake.

'They got under their desks and waited until the shaking stopped and then went to a designated area behind the school where they waited for further instructions,' she said.

Mrs Andrew then called Civil Defence to see if there was a tsunami risk and was told there wasn't.

Had there been a significant risk of tsunami the school students would have made their way to the top of the hill on private farmland on the far side of the State Highway behind the school.

She said an earthquake drill is held at the school every term. She was very happy with how smoothly everything went during yesterday's earthquake which she described as a 'decent shake'.

GNS Science confirmed there was no link 'whatsoever' between the earthquake and the eruption of Whakaari/White Island 23 hours earlier.

'The eruption from White Island is relatively small and has limited energy to influence an earthquake or trigger another volcano,' a GNS Science spokesman said.

'The Gisborne quake was purely coincidental.'

NOT EVEN A WINDOW CRACK: The former post office building stood up well to yesterday's 5.3 magnitude quake. File picture