New Zealand evacuates coastal towns over tsunami fears
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New Zealand evacuates coastal towns over tsunami fears

Large waves feared on East Coast of the North Island and the upper South Island after 7.1-magnitude quake recorded off coast

Illustrative photo of a small harbor in New Zealand, February 09, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Illustrative photo of a small harbor in New Zealand, February 09, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Evacuations were under way in New Zealand Friday after a tsunami warning was issued following a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake which struck before dawn off the east coast of the North Island.

An initial “potential” warning was upgraded to a tsunami after a wave measuring 30 centimeters was generated near the sparsely populated East Cape about 90 minutes after the earthquake struck.

“The first tsunami activity has arrived. Tsunami activity will continue for several hours,” the Civil Defense organization, responsible for national emergency management, said in a statement.

The warning covered the East Coast of the North Island and the upper South Island.

The shallow tremor was estimated at a depth of around 30 kilometers (18 miles) off the coast of the country’s north island, some 167 kilometers (103 miles) from Gisborne, according to the US Geological Survey said.

Radio New Zealand reported residents in coastal areas near the East Cape district were advised by the local civil defense to evacuate.

Civil defense public information officer Sheridan Gundry said the emergency management center has been activated.

The earthquake, which struck at 4:37am (1637 GMT) was felt over much of the country but there were no immediate reports of damage.

The quake came a day after a magnitude-5.7 quake registered in the same area, 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Te Araroa on the North Island’s east coast.

New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, which form part of the so-called “Ring of Fire”, and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.

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