New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had already been on the receiving end of lots of applause for the way she has led the country during the coronavirus pandemic. But Ardern delivered a master class on how to stay cool during a crisis on Monday morning when a magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck while she was in the middle of a live television interview.
“We’re just having a bit of an earthquake here, Ryan,” Ardern said as she looked around while speaking to anchor Ryan Bridge. “Quite a decent shake here.” The prime minister smiled and remained calm in front of the camera as things shook around her. Anyone would have been worried for the prime minister, but Ardern said not to be concerned “if you see things moving behind me” because the building she was in “moves a little more than most.” Once the shaking stopped, Ardern made clear she was ready to continue the interview. “I’m not under any hanging lights, and looks like I am in a structurally sound place,” she said.
New Zealand sits on the so-called Ring of Fire and has so many frequent earthquakes that some have come to refer to it as the “Shaky Isles.” New Zealand experiences around 20,000 earthquakes a year, although the vast majority are not felt by humans. This quake, which was the strongest of the year, struck around 62 miles northeast of Wellington and was strong enough to stop train services, but there were no reports of major damage or injuries.
Later on Monday, Ardern was asked how she felt when the earthquake struck in the middle of the interview. “Are you serious? That was what was going through my head,” she said. Ardern also said she knew it was difficult for her to know the strength of the short quake. “What I was also mindful of is that it is not always easy to get a real sense of the magnitude of an earthquake in here because of the base isolators, you can tend to move a little bit more than the quake implies in terms of strength,” she said.
The video of Ardern’s reaction to the quake quickly went viral as people pointed to her reaction as yet another example of how she manages to keep her composure in even the strangest circumstances. Her leadership during the pandemic has received global praise and recent polls had already shown Ardern is New Zealand’s most popular prime minister in a century, leading to the popular phrase, “Jacinda-mania.” Even before the coronavirus pandemic increased her popularity, the country’s youngest prime minister had already gained lots of attention for her sense of humor that was on full display when Stephen Colbert went to New Zealand last year. With elections in September, some even joked that Ardern likely orchestrated the whole thing so she could look cool.