Tsunami warning sirens sounded on Friday and thousands of New Zealanders on the North Island's east coast evacuated to higher ground after a third earthquake in less than 24 hours.
Workers, students and residents fled in areas like Northland and Bay of Plenty. Civil defence officials were on the ground to help people evacuate as authorities said tsunami waves could reach three metres above tide levels.
The third quake had a magnitude 8.1 quake that struck the Kermadec Islands, northeast of New Zealand's North Island. This came shortly after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in the same region.
Earlier, another large 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck about 900 kilometres away on the east of the North Island and was felt by tens of thousands of people.
New Zealand's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the first waves would arrive on New Zealand's north shores by about 9:45 a.m. local time It said areas under threat were from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Whakatane and Opotiki, and the Great Barrier Island.
"We want everyone to take this threat seriously. Move to high ground," Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai told state broadcaster TVNZ.
We have issued a TSUNAMI WARNING for New Zealand coastal areas following the magnitude 8.1 earthquake near KERMADEC ISLANDS REGION. There is a LAND and MARINE TSUNAMI THREAT. An EMA will be issued to areas under land and marine tsunami threat.
Warnings issued around the Pacific
Warnings were also issued for other Pacific islands, including Tonga, American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii and others.
Australia issued a marine tsunami threat for Norfolk Island but said there was no threat to the mainland. Chile said it could experience a minor tsunami.
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck off the east of New Zealand's North Island was felt by more than 60,000 people across the country with many describing the shaking as "severe." Aftershocks were still being recorded in the area.
"People near the coast in the following areas must move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible," NEMA said on Twitter.
"The earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible."
An earlier version of this story stated that there was threat to Wellington and other regions. Reuters has since updated its report to say there was no threat to the area.Mar 04, 2021 2:13 PM ET
With a file from The Associated Press
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