New Zealand Earthquake
Dust rises from rocks falling from a cliff in the Christchurch suburb of Sumner, moments after an earthquake struck on 23/12/2011.

New Zealand was hit by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake near Christchurch at 1.58 p.m local time on Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. No immediate casualties were reported, though public buildings and the Christchurch International Airport were evacuated by the authorities.

"No casualties have been reported so far," the CNN has quoted Vince Cholewa, spokesman for the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, as saying.
But according to a Reuters report, one person was hurt in a shopping mall and was taken to hospital.

"It was incredibly violent," one caller told Radio New Zealand, the Reuters has reported.

"All the water in my birdbath slopped out and I could hear everything falling over inside. When I walked inside, the cat streaked out the door, ornaments were all over the floor, contents of the pantry were lying on the floor, a little bit of smashed glass and picture frames lying over," the person added.

The epicentre was 26 kilometres (16 miles) north east of Christchurch and at a depth of 4.7 kilometres. A number of aftershocks followed the earthquake and there were reports of violent shaking of the buildings during the time.

In February, a powerful earthquake measuring 6.3 badly damaged Christchurch killing nearly 180 people. The earthquake brought damages to most of the buildings and toppled the city's famous cathedral. The economic losses caused by the earthquake was estimated to be up to NZ$20 billion ($15.5 billion, £9.9 billion). Again in last September, another earthquake of a lesser intensity struck the city.

However, Seismologists are not ruling out the possibility of further aftershocks in the region.

"In coming days the most likely scenario is that there'll be a series of aftershocks in a similar location and they'll gradually drop off," the Reuters has quoted Ken Gledhill, a seismologist with GNS Science, as telling TVNZ.

"This is just a reminder that this area is more active than it was in September 2010," he added.

New Zealand is located in the "Ring of Fire" area where large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur throughout the year.