‘Move immediately’: Third massive quake hits NZ
A number of North Island coastal residents in New Zealand have been told to move immediately to higher ground after a third massive earthquake off the nation's coast.
The magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the Kermadec Islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, at 8.28am local time (6.28am AEDT).
"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 (7.45am).
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."
We have issued a TSUNAMI WARNING for New Zealand coastal areas following the magnitude 7.3 earthquake near EAST OF THE NORTH ISLAND NEW ZEALAND. There is a LAND and MARINE TSUNAMI THREAT. An EMA will be issued to areas under land and marine tsunami threat.— National Emergency Management Agency (@NZcivildefence) March 4, 2021
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has also issued a marine tsunami warning for Norfolk Island, although land areas are not expected to be affected.
Hundreds of residents are fleeing homes, workplaces and schools to get to higher ground, with reports of chaos in towns such as Whangarei and Whakatane. There are reports of people at the beach in Tologa Bay, with cameras.
Businesses in central Whangarei have evacuated and employees are been advised to go to higher ground.
A central Whangarei worker said it was packed in town as people tried to evacuate. "[There were] heaps of people standing on the street outside their workplaces."
This is the third and largest quake above magntiude seven to hit the region this morning
A 7.4 quake struck near Raoul Island in the Kermadecs at 6.41am (NZT) and many New Zealanders were shaken awake by a magnitude 7.3 quake off the North Island's east coast at 2.27am.
Ok like literally the entire country felt that. That is terrifying. #eqnz— Laura Nixon (@LauraLexaNixon) March 4, 2021
Both of these earlier quakes triggered Civil Defence tsunami warnings that were later lifted but the third quake has sparked the strongest warnings yet.
A tsunami alert is sounding out in the Whangārei suburb of Onerahi.
People are being told to walk, run or cycle if possible to reduce chance of getting stuck in traffic.
The national emergency management agency says people should not return to low-lying coastal areas until the all-clear is given by Civil Defence.
According to USGS the latest quake to hit off the Kermedec Islands was magnitude 8.1 and 19.4km deep.
Ōhope resident Leslie Peake said traffic was "bumper to bumper" all the way down the main drag Harbour Rd and there were "huge queues of people evacuating".
She said the mood was highly "stressful" and she and her husband would not be getting to higher ground for a while as they waited in traffic.
Hills across the town were "full" with people seen sitting at the top looking out at the ocean, she said.
She said she had been in her bedroom when she received the alert and saw it pop up on the television so she and her husband loaded up their car with their cat and dog.
"We thought maybe we should get moving."
This morning's quake had been really strong where Peake was and she said it had been "really rocking and rolling" and "went on for ages".
"It was really rattling for some time."
Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer says the town is evacuating following the order to move to higher ground.
She said most of the coastal Bay of Plenty town is needing to evacuate.
"Most people are underway, all moving out," Riesterer said. "All of the alerts went off on mobile phones at the same time so everyone is moving.
"People know where to go. They either head towards Gisborne or they come up to Hospital Hill."
Ōpōtiki had a population of about 4800 according to the 2018 census and is located right on the coast, with the Waioeka River and the Otara River surrounding the town.
"I think people are [well prepared] ... but it's about making sure all the people get the message and move on out."
While the Kermedec Islands are expected to fare the worst, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Nuie, Pitcarin Island, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Wallis and Fortuna and New Zealand are alll in the firing line.
The waves are expected to be anywhere from .3 to one metre above the tide level.
Whangarei Intermediate School is evacuating, with pupils walking to higher ground at the cycle track near their school.
A tsunami warning has been issued for the whole of American Samoa as a result of the quake activity here.
The US National Weather Service Pago Pago issued the alert shortly before 9am (NZT).
"All residents along the coasts must evacuate immediately to higher ground immediately."
Originally published as Tsunami warning as earthquake hits NZ