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Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 10:19 UK

Quake moves NZ towards Australia

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A massive earthquake last week has brought New Zealand closer to Australia, scientists say.

The 7.8 magnitude quake in the Tasman Sea has expanded New Zealand's South Island westwards by about 30cm (12in).

Seismologist Ken Gledhill, of GNS Science, said the shift demonstrated the huge force of the tremor.

But correspondents say that with more than 2,250km (1,400 miles) separating the countries, the narrowing will not exactly be visible.

Nor, as the New Zealand media have observed, is it likely to bring cheaper air fares.

Tsunami alert

Landslip near Lake Purser (16.7.09)
The earthquake causes some landslip in the Fiordland region

The quake was powerful enough to generate a small tsunami with a wave of one metre (3ft) recorded on the west coast of New Zealand.

People in coastal areas were for a time advised to move to higher ground.

While the south-west of the South Island moved about 30cm towards Australia, the east coast moved only one centimetre westwards, Dr Gledhill said."Basically, New Zealand just got a little bit bigger is another way to think about it," he told AFP news agency.

Although it was New Zealand's biggest earthquake in 78 years, it caused only slight damage to buildings and property when it struck in the remote Fiordland region west of Invercargill last Thursday.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

"For a very large earthquake, although it was very widely felt, there were very few areas that were severely shaken," Dr Gledhill said.

GNS Science is a research organisation run by the New Zealand government.

New Zealand frequently suffers earthquakes because it sits on the meeting point of the Australian and Pacific continental plates.



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