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Tsunami warnings ease after one of the strongest earthquakes in modern history hits New Zealand

Written by on 04/03/2021

Thousands of New Zealanders have been told they can return to their homes after a powerful earthquake prompted tsunami warnings. 

Islanders on the east coast fled to higher ground following the series of quakes off North Island.

Small tsunami waves were triggered by the earthquakes – with footage posted on social media showing surges of water entering a marina in Northland and on the North Island’s East Cape region.

The largest waves have now passed and the threat level has been downgraded, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.

“All people who evacuated can now return,” it added.

Workers, students and residents were told to leave their homes in areas like Northland and Bay of Plenty – amid warnings tsunami waves could reach as high as 3m (10ft) above tide levels.

The final quake had a magnitude of 8.1 and struck the Kermadec Islands, northeast of New Zealand‘s North Island.

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It came shortly after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in the same region. A large 7.2-magnitude earthquake had struck earlier, about 540 miles away on the east of the North Island.

There were no reports of damage or casualties from the quakes.

There were traffic jams as people scrambled to get to higher ground
Image: There were traffic jams as people scrambled to get to higher ground
Some New Zealanders moved to higher ground after the tsunami warnings were issued. Pic: AP
Image: Some New Zealanders moved to higher ground after the tsunami warnings were issued. Pic: AP

NEMA earlier warned 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 had told state broadcaster TVNZ.

Warnings were also issued for other Pacific islands like 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, while Chile said it could experience a minor tsunami.

“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. DO NOT STAY AT HOME,” NEMA said in a statement posted online.

“The earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible.”

 Sky News

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