March 4 (UPI) — Multiple powerful earthquakes off the coast of New Zealand on Friday morning triggered a tsunami warning, scientists and officials said.
The largest, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake, was recorded around 8:30 a.m. near the Kermadec Islands Region, prompting a land and marine tsunami threat, the New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency said.
The Kermadec Islands are located 500 miles to 620 miles northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. Tsunami warnings were issued on the island’s western coast from Cape Reinga to Ahipara and on the eastern coast from Cape Reinga to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolga Bay — including Whakatane and Opotiki — and Great Barrier Island
People near the coast were urged to “move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible.”
“Strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges near the shore are expected in other coastal areas,” the agency said. “Stay out of the water. Stay off beaches and shore areas. Do not go sightseeing.”
Around 6:40 a.m., a 7.3-magnitude quake struck about 90 miles east of the Bay of Plenty, in the Pacific Ocean off the country’s eastern coastline, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was located about 260 miles southeast of Auckland.
New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency issued a tsunami warning that spanned from Cape Runway to Tolaga Bay and advised residents to evacuate.
NEMA said evacuation orders override COVID-19 restrictions in affected areas, and that residents should leave if advised to do so.
Several aftershocks with magnitudes between 5.3 and 4.5 followed the initial earthquake, the USGS said.