Westport earthquake shocks population

The Oamaru Boating Club's crew which won the junior fours at the Otago Rowing Association's...
The Oamaru Boating Club's crew which won the junior fours at the Otago Rowing Association's regatta at Port Chalmers: A. Storr (stroke), F. Jones, A. Ross, H. Drennan. - Otago Witness, 26.2.1913. Copies of picture available from ODT front office, Lower...

Westport, February 22: A terrific prolonged earthquake shock at 0.36 p.m. to-day caused great excitement. The whole population rushed from the houses to the streets. It commenced with a sound like a loud explosion or blast, the direction being from west to east, and was succeeded by a series of minor shocks, one at 3 p.m. being accompanied by a loud cannon-like explosion.

The first was the most severe and most disastrous in the history of Westport. Business places suffered considerable damage, and few houses escaped without something in the nature of crockery, pictures, flower vases, clocks, etc., being broken. Numerous chimneys were also partially destroyed, but the chief damage was done in the business centre.

The recently-erected large brick post and telegraph office got a severe shaking and is cracked in all directions. The southern wing, about a foot from its base, has been bodily shifted about half an inch. The metal down pipe on the back of this portion of the building bent with the moving building. Inside, almost all the gas mantles were destroyed, and a good deal of the plaster work on the ceilings and walls came down. The members of the post and telegraph staff got a great fright and speedily made their exit on to the road.

Considering the severity of the shock it is rather remarkable that no loss of life occurred. Some buildings must have been close on the collapsing stage. Thousands of pounds' worth of goods on the shelves were just hanging in the balance when the shock ended. Business people, being generally of the opinion that things might have been very much worse, are taking their losses philosophically.

Reports from the country show that the shock was severely felt there, but the damage appears to be confined mainly to collapsing chimneys. Reports round the town show that in some houses almost all the crockery and glassware was broken, while others close beside them escaped with but slight damage. The tops of many chimneys were broken off, the bricks in several cases falling down inside the building and doing damage to the ranges.

Some households suffered the loss of almost all their season's jam through bottles being thrown violently off the shelves on to the floor. The shocks were felt in the surrounding districts more or less severely, with accompanying breakages in the houses, but Westport seems to have fared worst. Tremors have continued through the night and right up to this afternoon (5.30 o'clock), about 14 in number, but of lessening severity. The highest tides for some years were reported at Karamea. - ODT, 24.2.1913.

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