New Zealand capital shrugs off severe quake

Building inspection crews worked their way through Wellington Saturday amid constant aftershocks, a day after a powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake rocked central New Zealand.

The mid-afternoon quake and severe following jolts sent terrified workers fleeing office buildings into streets littered in many areas with shattered glass from broken windows.

But, despite the intensity of the tremor, there was little visible evidence of building damage and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the capital city had quickly returned to normal.

"The city is operating as usual, sports fields and recreation facilities are open -- get out there and enjoy them," she said.

There was concern about the stadium scheduled to stage next weekend's rugby Test between New Zealand and Australia.

The venue was closed for the weekend and all events cancelled while it underwent a thorough inspection by engineers, but officials expected the game would go ahead with a capacity crowd of about 35,000.

"I expect, like the last earthquake, there will be some relatively minor repairs that will have to be made but all things being equal we will be ready for the Test match next weekend," stadium chief executive Shane Harmon said.

The 6.5 quake, a similar-sized one last month and hundreds of aftershocks -- many in excess of magnitude 4.0 -- have been centered near the small township of Seddon in the upper South Island, where almost all the houses have been affected.

Officials said most of the damage related to roofs, windows and brickwork and the majority of houses remained structurally sound.

In Wellington, some buildings sustained minor damage and one inner-city street was cordoned off to allow for the demolition of a building's lift shaft.

Scientists said they could not predict if a third six-plus quake was imminent but warned that strong aftershocks would continue for some time.

"We are definitely expecting it to be quite vigorous in the next couple of days, and then it will die off," seismologist Caroline Little told the New Zealand Herald.

New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, forming part of the so-called "Ring of Fire". It experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.