AUCKLAND: A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island in the early hours on Friday (Mar 5), said the US Geological Survey (USGS), triggering a tsunami warning from authorities.
The USGS said the quake hit 180km northeast of the city of Gisborne at 2.27am, at a relatively shallow depth of 10km.
“Based on the preliminary earthquake parameters, hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 kilometres of the earthquake epicentre,” the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency has issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas near the east of North Island.
“Coastal inundation (flooding of land areas) is expected” in the east coast of the North Island from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay, it said. People in that area were also told evacuate.
The closest major city to the epicentre is Gisborne with a population of about 35,500.
The agency estimated the first tsunami waves may have reached New Zealand in the areas around East Cape at approximately 3:14am (Thursday, 10.14pm, Singapore time).
“Tsunami activity will continue for several hours,” it said.
The quake was felt across North Island, with residents in Christchurch and Dunedin in South Island also reporting tremors.
Multiple aftershocks ranging between 4 and 5 magnitude were also recorded by USGS and New Zealand government’s seismic monitor Geonet.
More than 60,000 people reported feeling the quake on Geonet’s website, with 282 people describing the shaking as “severe” and 75 saying it was “extreme”. Most others described it as light.
“Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast who would have felt the full force of that earthquake,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern posted on Instagram.
There was no tsunami threat to the capital Wellington and other regions, but civil defence authorities asked residents across the country to stay away from beaches and marine areas as there could be strong and unusual currents.
Before the tsunami warning was issued, the New Zealand Emergency Authority had advised people to move immediately to the nearest high ground.
The USGS initially pegged the quake at 7.3, then revised it down to 6.9.
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