A powerful earthquake of magnitude 5.9 struck the North Island of New Zealand on Sunday. There have been no reports of casualties yet. The quake, with an offshore epicentre, hit around 5:34 a.m. local time. New Zealand's GeoNet asked people to "drop, cover, and hold on" after upgrading the intensity of the jolt.

The tremor, which was felt by as many as 5,000 people, struck 50 km north-west of Te Kaha, Bay of Plenty in the North Island, at a depth of 115 kilometres, RNZ reported. "I was fast asleep and I was suddenly jolted awake, it was a very sharp jolt and after the initial jolt there was quite a bit of shaking which seemed to go on for about 20 or 30 seconds," a listener told the station. "Things were definitely rattling, I could hear the cabinet rattling...and the house shaking."

Is New Zealand heading for another major quake? Seismologists spill the beans on possible natural disaster
A truck drives over the fractured road south of Ward on the South Island, November 14, 2016 Reuters

New Zealand's GeoNet, which tracks seismic activity in the country, had earlier called it a 5.3 magnitude tremor but upgraded to 5.9 since then. GeoNet said deep quakes like this are often widely felt.

New Zealand experiences earthquakes often as it sits on the 'Pacific Ring of Fire', a 40,000 km-long horseshoe shaped line marked by volcanic arcs and oceanic trenches. The highly earthquake-prone region includes Indonesia and Japan as well. More than 80 percent of the world's major earthquakes happen in this belt.

The Christchurch earthquake in 2011 had killed 185 people and injured several thousands.

Is New Zealand heading for another major quake? Seismologists spill the beans on possible natural disaster
Evacuees formerly stranded in the earthquake-affected town of Kaikoura rest aboard the New Zealand naval ship HMNZS Canterbury Reuters