An earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale hit at 9.06am, shaking buildings as people sought shelter and cover. A number of smaller aftershocks were felt before the largest, a 4.4 quake struck at 3.21pm.

The earlier quake struck 30km east of Seddon, at a depth of 8km, it has been reported with the 4.4 quake emanating from a location 55km west of Levin at a depth of 16km.

There have been 20 aftershocks since the first quake struck.

“They will taper off after the next few days,” GNS seismologist Dr Anna Kaiser told the New Zealand Herald.

“There will be much fewer than there have been today.

“We always get a level of background activity in this area anyway, so we do expect small quakes for a while.”