Bloemfontein - The Free State government evacuated all public servants from Bloemfontein's two tallest buildings during the earthquake on Tuesday.
“The director general of the Free State Kopung Ralikontsane ordered all public servants immediately to evacuate the government buildings, go home and report for duty the next day,” said government spokesman Mondli Mvambi.
The earthquake struck after midday, shaking buildings and rattling pictures and windows.
The Council for Geoscience said the quake measured 5.5 magnitude on the Richter scale.
Mvambi said Ralikontsane ordered the province's structural engineers to investigate the safety of all government buildings, including hospitals, throughout the Free State.
Tremors were felt in Bloemfontein, Welkom, Thabong and Kroonstad.
Mvambi said the government's evacuation plans in the city's highest buildings were executed without any problems.
The buildings are the 23-storey provincial government building, the former CR Swartz building and the Lebohang building of 12 floors.
Provincial public works spokeswoman Senne Bogatsu, working on the 10th floor in the Lebohang building, said she was standing when the tremor hit the building.
“It felt as if my knees were starting to shake and then my feet,” she said.
Bogatsu said she felt totally disorientated for a moment before she realised people were starting to flock to the stairs to evacuate the building.
Free State police spokesman Captain Stephen Thakeng said Welkom and Thabong residents phoned in to report shaking houses and broken windows.
He said schools evacuated children from buildings as a precaution.
Kroonstad resident David Seamore said he was sitting on the veranda wondering what was making a noise on his roof.
“The next moment the ground started to shake. It was a moderate shake. My wife decided to leave the house and stand outside.”
Seamore said many of his neighbours also decided to stand outside their homes during the shaking.
Mvambi said no extensive damage was reported from towns in the northern Free State by Tuesday afternoon.