The first earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.3, struck about 148 miles (238km) northeast of Gisborne, on the east coast of the country’s North Island, at 2.27am local time on Friday.
A tsunami warning was issued, but later retracted.
Within hours, several tremors and another two major earthquakes struck nearby with the latest one hitting near the Kermadec Islands, which lie northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, with a magnitude of 8.1 triggering an urgent land and marine tsunami warning.
People living in the areas impacted have been urged to move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible.
Areas that have been issued with a land and marine tsunami threat include: the west coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Ahipara, the east coast of the North Island from Cape Reigna to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay – including Whakatane and Opotiki – and Great Barrier Island.
The first waves may reach the North Island’s coast in the areas around Lottin Point, on the east coast, at approximately 9:49am local time officials have said.
Those evacuating have been warned to walk, run or cycle if at all possible to reduce the chances of getting stuck in traffic congestion.
A tweet from National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) posted in the last few minutes, reads: “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 [emergency management alert] will be issued to areas under land and marine tsunami threat.”
The latest updated statement on the NEMA website reads: “The latest earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible.
“People in all other areas who felt a long or strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or lasted longer than a minute, should move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible.
“Evacuation advice overrides the current COVID-19 Alert Level requirements.
"Listen to local Civil Defence authorities and follow any instructions regarding evacuation of your area. If you are told to evacuate do not stay at home. Stay 2 metres away from others if you can and if it is safe to do so.”
More as we have it.
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