A powerful earthquake struck New Zealand's South Island early Monday, shaking awake residents, damaging buildings, and prompting emergency services to warn people along the coast to move to higher ground to avoid tsunami waves. The magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck in a mostly rural area close to Christchurch, reports the AP, but appeared to be more strongly felt in the capital, Wellington, more than 120 miles away. The quake was followed by a number of strong aftershocks. The quake knocked out New Zealand's emergency call number, 111, for about 10 minutes, police reported. New Zealand's Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management reported that a tsunami wave struck at about 1:50am; it had earlier issued a message that there was no threat, then declared "situation has changed."
As Monday's quake hit, 24-year-old Christchurch resident Hannah Gin said she sat calmly and waited, figuring the rumbling would stop in a few seconds. Instead, the shaking just went on and on—for at least three minutes, she said by phone. Gin said there was no jarring up and down or side to side, just a long, rolling sensation. But it went on for much longer than the typical quakes that strike the area, she said. She was less concerned about running for cover than she was about vomiting from motion sickness, she said with a chuckle. "I could hear the sliding door sliding back and forth and we've got washing hanging up and I could see the washing moving," Gin said. "It just kept going and going." She said she had heard from friends, and all were safe. "As far as I know, everyone's fine," she said. "We're all just really shaken." (Read more New Zealand stories.)