New Zealand

New Zealand earthquake: PM Jacinda Ardern live on TV in Wellington as North Island hit

Leader says she can feel ‘quite a decent shake here’ as the 5.8 quake strikes during a live interview

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern's live TV interview interrupted by magnitude-5.8 earthquake – video

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has developed a reputation for keeping her cool in the face of a crisis. But an earthquake first thing on Monday morning as she was interviewed live on television seemed like an unusually trying way to start a week.

“We’re just having a bit of an earthquake here,” Ardern told Ryan Bridge, a host for Newshub’s AM Show, live on air. Casting her eyes to the ceiling of the room she was standing in at New Zealand’s parliament in Wellington, she remained in place as the television camera jolted.

The 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit 30 km north-west of Levin, a town about an hour’s drive north from the capital, at a depth of 37 km, according to the country’s seismology agency. No injuries or structural damage have been reported.

“Quite a decent shake here, but if you see things moving behind me, the Beehive moves more than most,” Ardern said, referring to the name given to the main parliament building, as the room rattled around her.

The quake lasted about 15 seconds and was felt by tens of thousands of New Zealanders as far afield as Auckland in the north and Dunedin on the South Island.

“We’re fine,” Ardern told Bridge, signalling she was ready to continue the interview as the quake rolled to a close. “I’m not under any hanging lights.”

Ardern later told reporters that the first thought to mind as the room began to shake was, “Are you serious?”

Ardern, like most New Zealanders, is accustomed to earthquakes. New Zealand lies on the seismically active “Ring of Fire”, a 40,000km arc of volcanoes and ocean trenches girdling much of the Pacific Ocean.

In 2010 and 2011, two major quakes devastated the South Island city of Christchurch, killing 185 people. And in 2016, another near the town of Kaikoura caused damage throughout the top of the South Island and bottom of the North, with some major buildings in Wellington still closed for earthquake strengthening.

There did not appear to be any such damage on Monday, even close to the earthquake’s epicentre.

But Grant Robertson, the finance minister, said in a tweet that the quake was “not what we need right now.”

Others were more dramatic. “I believe after earthquake and plague, the next one is frogs,” one Twitter user said.

Civil defence officials did not have anything to say about frogs but quickly ruled out the threat of a tsunami.

A Wellington councillor, Fleur Fitzsimons, reported a strange coincidence during the rumble.

“Eek, on the phone to the mayor talking about earthquake strengthening the Central Library when that earthquake hit! #eqnz #Wellington,” she wrote on Twitter. The capital’s main library was forced out of use in 2019 when it was discovered to be unsafe.

With Australian Associated Press