A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of New Zealand today, triggering a tsunami threat on the coast of the Pacific nation.
New Zealand emergency officials have issued a tsunami warning after telling people who felt the quake on the coast of the North Island to seek high ground or flee ‘as far inland as you can’.
Flooding is expected in a 100-mile coastal stretch from from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay, New Zealand’s disaster agency said in a 3.30am update.
Witnesses on the North Island described a ‘very long, swaying shake’ and houses making ‘cracking sounds’ in a tremor which some thought had lasted for as long as a minute, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
This diagram shows where the earthquake struck off the coast of New Zealand on Thursday
New Zealand’s emergency management agency told people living near the coast who felt a ‘long or strong quake’ to move inland or to high ground as soon as possible
The quake, which came less than an hour after a 3.7-magnitude rumble in the same area, was measured at 110 miles from the city of Gisborne.
Tsunami waves were possible within 180 miles of the earthquake’s epicentre, the US-operated Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre warned.
The Hawaii-based warning centre said in a 3am update that ‘tsunami waves had been observed’ following the earthquake.
New Zealand’s disaster agency said shortly afterwards that there was a ‘land and marine tsunami threat’ to coastal areas.
Strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges near the shore are expected, it said, warning of a threat to beaches and harbours.
‘Tsunami activity will continue for several hours and the threat must be regarded as real until this warning is cancelled,’ it said, adding that evacuation advice overrides pandemic-related restrictions.
‘Anyone near the coast who felt a LONG or STRONG quake should MOVE IMMEDIATELY to the nearest high ground, or as far inland as you can,’ it said earlier.
The United States Geological Survey recorded the earthquake’s depth at six miles and said it had struck shortly before 2.30am New Zealand time.
Residents of Gisborne reported light to moderate shaking, it said.
New Zealand recently marked the 10-year anniversary of 2011’s Christchurch earthquake which killed 185 people and wrecked large parts of the city.
This month also marks a decade since the Pacific earthquake that triggered the Japanese tsunami and resulting Fukushima nuclear disaster.