A number of North Island coastal residents in New Zealand have been told to move immediately to higher ground after a third massive earthquake off the nation’s coast.
The magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the Kermadec Islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, at 8.28am local time (6.28am AEDT).
“People near coast from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, and Great Barrier Island must move immediately to nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible,” the National Emergency Management Agency alerted at 8.45am (7.45am).
The National Emergency Management Authority said residents must evacuate these areas even if they did not feel the earthquake. “DO NOT WAIT. A damaging tsunami is possible.”
WARNING FOR AUSTRALIA’S NORFOLK ISLAND
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has also issued a marine tsunami warning for Norfolk Island, although land areas are not expected to be affected.
Hundreds of residents are fleeing homes, workplaces and schools to get to higher ground, with reports of chaos in towns such as Whangarei and Whakatane. There are reports of people at the beach in Tologa Bay, with cameras.
Businesses in central Whangarei have evacuated and employees are been advised to go to higher ground.
A central Whangarei worker said it was packed in town as people tried to evacuate. “[There were] heaps of people standing on the street outside their workplaces.”
This is the third and largest quake above magntiude seven to hit the region this morning.
A 7.4 quake struck near Raoul Island in the Kermadecs at 6.41am (NZT) and many New Zealanders were shaken awake by a magnitude 7.3 quake off the North Island’s east coast at 2.27am.
Both of these earlier quakes triggered Civil Defence tsunami warnings that were later lifted but the third quake has sparked the strongest warnings yet.
PEOPLE TOLD TO WALK, NOT RUN
A tsunami alert is sounding out in the Whangārei suburb of Onerahi.
People are being told to walk, run or cycle if possible to reduce chance of getting stuck in traffic.
The national emergency management agency says people should not return to low-lying coastal areas until the all-clear is given by Civil Defence.
According to USGS the latest quake to hit off the Kermedec Islands was magnitude 8.1 and 19.4km deep.
Ōhope resident Leslie Peake said traffic was “bumper to bumper” all the way down the main drag Harbour Rd and there were “huge queues of people evacuating”.