Powerful earthquakes trigger tsunami warning in New Zealand; thousands evacuate

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Tsunami warning sirens sounded Friday and thousands of New Zealanders on the east coast of the North Island were evacuated to a higher level after a third earthquake.

Workers, students and residents fled to areas such as Northland and Bay of Plenty. Civil defense officials were on hand to help people evacuate as authorities said the tsunami waves could be 10 feet above the tide level.

The most recent quake had a magnitude of 8.1 and hit the Kermadec Islands northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. It happened shortly after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck the same region. Previously, a large 7.2 magnitude earthquake had struck about 540 miles away in the east of the North Island. There were no reports of damage or loss from the quakes.

The New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) announced that the first waves would hit the north coast of New Zealand around 9:45 a.m. and the Great Barrier Island.

“We want everyone to take this threat seriously. Go to the heights,” Sheryl Mai, Mayor of Whangarei, told the state broadcaster TVNZ.

Warnings have also been issued for other Pacific islands such as Tonga, American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii, and others.

Australia issued a tsunami threat to Norfolk Island but said there was no threat to the mainland. Chile said there could be a small tsunami.

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck east of New Zealand’s North Island was felt by more than 60,000 people across the country, many of whom said the tremors were “severe.” Aftershocks were still being registered in the area.

“People living near the coast in the following areas must immediately move out of all tsunami evacuation zones or as far inland as possible to the nearest elevation. Do not stay at home,” NEMA said on Twitter.

“Some of these areas may not have felt the earthquake, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible,” he added.

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