Earthquake swarm, North Island tsunami warning after magnitude 8 shake

QUAKE LATEST
* Swarm of earthquakes off NZ coast spark Civil Defence warnings – including magnitude 8 quake
* Tsunami warning for large parts of North Island coast – residents told to move immediately
* 7.4 magnitude shake strikes at 6.41am off Raoul Island, the largest of the Kermadec Islands
* A 7.3 magnitude quake struck earlier, at 2.27am, off the East Coast of the North Island
* Many residents evacuated but a tsunami and marine warnings were later lifted
* Residents describe the jolt: ‘Terrifying’, ‘Oh my god’, ‘Biggest one I’ve ever felt’
* PM Jacinda Ardern: ‘[I] hope everyone is OK out there’
* Issues reported in receiving cellphone emergency alert notifications

Many North Island coastal residents have been told to move immediately to higher ground after a third massive earthquake off the coast of New Zealand.

“People near coast from the BAY OF ISLANDS to WHANGAREI, from MATATA to TOLAGA BAY, and GREAT BARRIER ISLAND must MOVE IMMEDIATELY to nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible,” the National Emergency Management Agency alerted at 8.45am.

The National Emergency Management Authority said residents must evacuate these areas even if they did not feel the earthquake. “DO NOT WAIT. A damaging tsunami is possible.”

EARLIER

A new 7.4m earthquake near the Kermadec Islands has sparked another Civil Defence tsunami activity advisory, following an earlier, massive jolt off the New Zealand east coast that woke thousands of Kiwis.

Authorities issued a national advisory at 7.30am on Friday, warning people of tsunami activity near the Kermadec Islands. It followed a 7.4 magnitude earthquake off Raoul Island, the largest of the islands, at 6.41am.

“We expect New Zealand coastal areas to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore,” said the National Emergency Management Agency.

“People in or near the sea in the following areas should move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, rivers and estuaries.”

The advisory covers east coast areas of Northland – from the Bay of Islands to Whāngārei.

Just after 8.30am, the agency said: “GNS Science continue to assess the tsunami threat from the M7.4 Kermadec Islands earthquake at 6:41am. At this time there is no new information. We will provide a further update within the next hour.”

NEMA said there was no need to evacuate other areas, unless directly advised to by local Civil Defence authorities.

The latest jolt followed an earlier earthquake that struck at 2.27am about 95km east of Te Araroa on the North Island’s East Coast, causing “severe” shaking throughout much of the country.

Land and marine warnings that followed the 7.3 earthquake were later lifted and people were told they could return to their homes. So far, there have been no reports of injuries or major damage.

GeoNet had received more than 52,000 “felt” reports from people across the country.

“Our network of seismographs clearly show the shaking from the mainshock, and aftershocks throughout New Zealand,” GeoNet said.

“The earthquake is in a similar area to the 7.1 East Cape earthquake in 2016, an area familiar with larger earthquakes with 40 events over M5.0 in the past 10 years.”

The area along the east coast of the North Island and north of East Cape is one of the more seismically active regions of New Zealand. The seismicity is associated with the Pacific Plate pushing – or subducting – beneath the Australian Plate, under the North Island.

Trains were halted and lines across eastern parts of the North Island are now closed ahead of track inspection for possible quake damage.

People in Auckland, Wellington and even Christchurch all reported feeling the quake.

“She was a beauty, it really shook. I’m quite frightened, I’ve got no idea if there’s going to be a tsunami, it was massive,” Rex from Gisborne told Newstalk ZB’s Bruce Russell. “It’s the biggest I’ve felt in a long, long time and I’m 80.”

In tears on Newstalk ZB, Helen in the Chatham Islands said: “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever felt. It went on and on and on. I’m in the old stone house and I didn’t know where to stand because it’s all rock. I’ve never felt one so big – it must be massive across New Zealand. It died down and then went on and on again.”

Janice in Napier told the station: “I’m still shaking. I was lying in bed … and the next minute, the quake comes in and it lasted for ages. The biggest one I’ve felt. This was one jolt and it kept going. I eventually got up and sat under the doorway, oh my God.”

Harry in New Plymouth told Newstalk ZB: “That was a bit of a doozy. I felt it as clear as if it was happening underneath. It woke me up… I have the map in front of me, she certainly was a jolt. To be that far away and it still got to us. If you are near the water folks, get away.”

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said it was a big shake. “Everyone was awake, our Civil Defence teams got into action immediately to make sure everyone was safe and sound.”

She said she’s incredibly proud of the locals who acted fast. “Gisborne people, Tairāwhiti people, when there’s an earthquake and it is long or strong, they self-evacuate. Because you cannot wait for locally-created earthquakes, you need to self-evacuate.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has posted on Instagram: “Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast who would have felt the full force of that earthquake”. She repeated the message on Facebook:

Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast whowould have felt the full force of that earthquake (the map here shows just how many people were reporting it across the country)

KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the network was shut soon after the tremor struck,from Napier to Wairoa, Tauranga to Kawerau, and from Kawerau to Murupara, pending inspections by track staff.

“Two log services were halted while we worked to ensure the safety of our network, however both have now resumed their service.”

No other freight services were affected.

Moyle said the inspection of the Napier line would take place later today as the next train wasn’t scheduled to run until tomorrow.

There have been 15 smaller earthquakes since the 2.27am jolt, ranging from magnitude 5.4 to 4.4, also centred near East Cape.

These aftershocks are common following big quakes in the region – and those which followed a 7.2 earthquake in 1995 continued for around two years.

In 1947, there were two earthquakes off the coast of Gisborne with magnitude of about 7.0, which produced tsunamis with heights of several metres

The National Emergency Management Agency says residents who evacuated after the early morning tsunami warning can return to their homes.

“Based on current scientific advice and information from coastal tsunami gauges there is no longer a threat to land areas. People who have evacuated can now return home,” the agency said in a tweet just after 5am.

“There is no need to evacuate other areas unless directly advised by local civil defence authorities. Coastal inundation (flooding of land areas near the shore) is no longer expected as a result of this event.”

And just after 6am, it said the threat of strong and unusual currents had passed.

“Based on GNS Science’s modelling and ocean observations on tide gauges and the New Zealand DART Buoys, our science advice is that the threat of strong and unusual currents has now passed for all parts of New Zealand including the Chatham Islands,” it tweeted.

The agency just after 5am said there was no need to evacuate other areas unless advised by local civil defence authorities.

Coastal flooding was no longer expected.

The earthquake was originally reported as a 7.4m quake, then downgraded.

Fire and Emergency NZ had this morning implemented tsunami procedures across eastern coastal regions as a precaution.

Many people across New Zealand were woken by an emergency notification on their phones this morning activated by the government agency overseeing the unfolding tsunami threat.

Bay of Plenty Civil Defence said an emergency mobile alert had been issued by the National Emergency Management Agency warning of coastal flooding in the East Coast of the North Island from the east of Cape Runaway to Tologa Bay.

The alert had been sent to residents in those areas.

But not everyone in the tsunami zone reported getting the alert – while a person living in the South Island reported getting up to 17 alerts on an iPhone.

A man living in Tolaga Bay said he did not receive any emergency texts or tsunami alerts.

He said while there were social media posts on Twitter and Facebook from local civil defence about the need to evacuate, a lot of elderly people in the region did not have access to this technology.

“We need alarms. We need coastal tsunami alert systems that go off,” he told Newstalk ZB’s Bruce Russell.

He said scared families had taken refuge up a nearby hill.

According to the NEMA website emergency mobile alerts are messages about emergencies sent by authorised emergency agencies to capable mobile phones.

The alerts can be targeted to areas affected by serious hazards and will only be sent when there is a serious threat to life, health or property, and, in some cases, for test purposes.

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