Powerful 7.1 magnitude quake hits off New Zealand coast, prompts evacuations

New Zealand's Civil Defence issued tsunami warnings for the country's East and North coasts of North Island and the upper South Island after a magnitude 7 quake rocked North Island.

"We haven't heard any reports of injuries or damage at all", she said.

The temblor hit off the east coast of New Zealand's northern island around 4:37 p.m. UTC at a depth of around 30.7 kilometers, USGS reported.

A short while after the natural disaster struck, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management warned of the potential of a tsunami hitting coastal areas.

Stay off beaches and shore areas.

Many aftershocks have been felt since the 7.1 quake struck Friday morning.

The natural disaster struck around 9:37 a.m.

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- Tairawhiti Civil Defence Emergency Management controller John Clarke says if people feel another long and strong natural disaster, they should again head for higher ground or as far inland as possible.

It is said the jolt which lasted for nearly a minute was felt by thousands across much of the North Island. The tsunami warning has been lifted after 8 am after Civil Defence noted the greatest tsunami threat, based on available data, had passed. "Locals are advised to follow instructions from local Civil Defence authorities".

Te Araroa resident Amohi Cook said she huddled in her auto on top of a hill when the quake struck.

In New Zealand, where earthquakes are common, Civil Defence regularly holds practice drills for coastal residents so they know how to react in an emergency.

"In a statement, they added: "(The ministry) and scientific advisors are in the process of assessing the situation to determine the severity of the threat to New Zealand".

Areas such as Tologa Bay and Te Araroa could be impacted.

Communications advisor Sheridan Gundry says no official tsunami warning has been received but has urged anyone living on the Gisborne region coastline who felt the natural disaster as "long and strong" to get to higher ground or as far inland as possible.

  • Sonia Alvarado