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NZ eases tsunami alert after series of powerful quakes

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Thousands of New Zealanders have returned to their homes after small tsunami waves triggered by a series of powerful earthquakes hit the east coast of North Island.

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Officials had warned waves could reach three metres above high tide levels after the quakes – the strongest a magnitude 8.1 – but the largest had passed, the National Emergency Management Agency said as it downgraded the threat early Friday afternoon.

“All people who evacuated can now return,” the agency said.

Video on social media showed surges of water entering a marina in Northland and on North Island’s East Cape region.

Earlier, workers, students and residents in areas like Northland and Bay of Plenty, on the northern coast near Auckland, were put on alert after three offshore quakes in less than eight hours triggered tsunami sirens.

An emergency alert was issued for all coastal areas around Auckland, a city of 1.7 million, where people were told to stay away from the water’s edge. There were no reports of damage or casualties.

The third and strongest quake struck the Kermadec Islands, northeast of North Island, on Friday morning, coming shortly after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in the same region.

Earlier, a large 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck about 900 km away on the east of North Island.

Linda Tatare, a resident of Anaura Bay, on North Island’s east coast, said the small community of about 50 left for higher ground in the morning.

“Everyone, and their dogs, are up in the hills,” Tatare said.

“We are safe. We can all see our properties from here.”

Tsunami warnings were also put out for Pacific islands including New Caledonia and Vanuatu, while smaller tsunami waves may be recorded as far away as Antarctica and parts of South America, the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Scientists said the series of quakes was caused by tectonic movement on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific plates, part of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire New Zealand sits on.

A decade ago, a magnitude 6.3 quake killed 185 people in the South Island city of Christchurch.

Australia issued a marine tsunami threat for Norfolk Island, a tiny territory with about 1750 residents, but said there was no threat to the mainland.

Norfolk Island residents in areas threatened by land inundation or flooding were advised to go to higher ground or inland as small tsunami waves impacted the coastline.

Earlier, civil defence officials were on the ground to help people evacuate as authorities feared tsunami waves could reach three metres above tide levels.

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

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.

-REUTERS

 

 

 

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