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Two moderate quakes rock New Zealand

Homes across wide areas of New Zealand were rocked by two moderate earthquakes, but no victims or damages were reported.

The first quake hit at 8:15 a.m. Thursday (1915 GMT Wednesday) on South Island, 150 kilometers (94 miles) north of the southern city of Christchurch, geological sciences agency GNS Science reported on its Web site.

The 5.6-magnitude temblor, which occurred 70 kilometers (44 miles) below the Earth's surface, was "widely felt in South Island," it said, and also lightly rocked the capital, Wellington, and southern North Island.

It was followed 11 hours later by a 5.7-magnitude quake near the eastern North Island city of Tauranga at 7:17 p.m. (0617 GMT) and was likely felt throughout central and northern North Island, authorities said.

There were no immediate reports of damage from the temblor, located some 280 kilometers (175 miles) below the surface.

The earthquakes were the second and third major temblors in New Zealand in a week, following a 7.4 quake in the Southern Ocean near its Auckland Islands territory on Sunday. No damage was reported from that shake, which triggered a 20 centimeter (8 inch) tsunami wave that lapped the shoreline of Tasmania, a southern island of Australia.

GNS duty seismologist Bryan Field said Thursday's South Island quake was moderate and may have caused some minor damage, but "it's no way near the massive one we had down south last week."

In the farming and tourism town of Hanmer Springs, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Thursday's first quake epicenter, supermarket manager Kelly Steele said some goods fell from shelves during the shaking, but nothing had been damaged.

The quake "started with a bit of a rumble" before it hit, she said, adding "you could hear it rattling away."

New Zealand sits above an area of the Earth's crust where the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates are colliding and records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year - but only about 150 are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 a year do any damage.