May 24, 2020 / 8:49 PM / 2 months ago

New Zealand's Ardern stays cool as earthquake strikes during live interview

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was unflustered by an earthquake that struck the capital Wellington on Monday while she was doing a live TV interview, and calmly continued with the programme.

Ardern, who became prime minister in 2017, is hugely popular in New Zealand for her handling of several crises - a mass shooting in Christchurch last year, a volcanic eruption in December and the recent coronavirus pandemic.

Wellington and nearby areas were shaken by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake with the epicentre 30 km (20 miles) northwest of Levin, a city close to the capital, and at a depth of 37 km, according to Geonet.

Ardern was speaking on a live TV interview at the time from the parliament building, called the Beehive.

“We’re just having a bit of an earthquake here, Ryan...,” she told the host of the show Ryan Bridge, as she, the camera and other things around her shook.

“Quite a decent shake here...if you see things moving behind me. The Beehive moves a little more than most,” she said.

Ardern assured the host that she was safe and the interview resumed.

The video was soon viral on social media.

There were no damages and no injuries, Ardern confirmed at a news conference later, but the shaking that lasted for more than 30 seconds caused panic in Wellington with several people in offices and homes getting under their tables for cover.

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk across a road in front of the New Zealand parliament building known as the Beehive in central Wellington, New Zealand, July 3, 2017. Picture taken July 3, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

New Zealand lies on the seismically active “Ring of Fire”, a 40,000-km arc of volcanoes and ocean trenches girdling much of the Pacific Ocean.

The city of Christchurch is still recovering from a 6.3 magnitude quake in 2011 that killed 185 people.

In 2016, a 7.8 magnitude tremor hit the South Island town of Kaikoura, killing two and causing billions of dollars worth of damage, including in the capital Wellington, which is on North Island.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Grant McCool and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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