New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unrattled as earthquake hits during live TV interview

Alix Culbertson, news reporter

An earthquake that struck near New Zealand's capital had people diving for cover - but not prime minister Jacinda Ardern who continued with a live TV interview.

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake on Monday morning was 23 miles (37km) deep and the epicentre was 18.6m (30km) northwest of Levin, a city in the country's North Island close to the capital Wellington, according to GeoNet.

It lasted for more than 30 seconds and no damage was reported but it caused panic in Wellington as people in offices and homes rushed for cover under tables.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was being interviewed live on TV from the parliament building, called the beehive, when the tremors started.

The camera could be seen shaking as the PM looked to the ceiling and said: "We're just having an earthquake here, Ryan.

"Quite a decent shake here if you see things moving behind me.

"The beehive moves a little more than most."

When asked whether she was safe and if she was alright to carry on, Ms Ardern said: "Yes, no, it's just stopped.

"No, we're fine, I'm not under any hanging lights and I look like I'm in a structurally sound place."

After finding out the strength of the earthquake, she later said it was "not an unreasonable shake".

More than 36,800 people reported feeling the tremor to GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazard information unit.

The unit said there were 40 aftershocks to Monday's quake, ranging from 1.7 to 4 magnitude.

Wellington's emergency services said there were no immediate reports of damage, while all trains in the city were suspended as engineers assessed the impact.

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New Zealanders are fairly used to tremors as the country's islands lie on the "Ring of Fire", a 24,855m (40,000km) series of volcanoes and ocean trenches in the Pacific Ocean.

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

In 2016, the South Island town of Kaikoura was hit by a 7.8 magnitude tremor, killing two and causing billions of dollars worth of damage, including in Wellington.