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Earthquake rocks New Zealand's capital

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A man points at a seismic chart at the Central Weather Bureau in Taipei on March 4, 2010. A 5.8-magnitude earthquake rocked central New Zealand early Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage, officials said.AFP/File

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake rocked central New Zealand early Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage, officials said.

The quake was the latest in a series to strike off the coast near the top of the South Island, which started with a 5.3 tremor on Thursday.

The latest significant jolt struck at 7.17 am (1917 GMT Saturday) about 50 kilometres (30 miles) south-west of New Zealand's capital Wellington, at a depth of about 12 kilometres.

The US Ambassador to New Zealand David Huebner tweeted that the quake was felt as a "meaningful jolt and roll".

The region has seen a spate of quakes in recent days. The local Geonet monitoring service recorded the moderate tremor as one of seven measured at 3.2 or stronger in the space of half an hour on Sunday.

The quakes have been centered about 200 kilometres north of New Zealand's second largest city Christchurch, where a 6.3-magnitude quake in February 2011 toppled buildings onto lunchtime crowds, leaving 185 people dead.

The country sits on the so-called "Ring of Fire", the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.