Quake near New Zealand prompts tsunami fears as far as Hawaii

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 5, 2021

A series of strong earthquakes struck off the coast of the North Island the day before, prompting the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Warning sirens sounded across Noumea as authorities ordered evacuations amid fears that waves of up three metres were headed towards the French territory.

The third and strongest quake struck the Kermadec Islands, northeast of New Zealand's North Island, on Friday morning, coming shortly after a 7.4 magnitude natural disaster in the same region.

Two clusters of powerful undersea earthquakes have been taking place today in two areas near New Zealand-one east off New Zealand's North Island and the other further north of New Zealand-triggering tsunami warnings and evacuations on some coastlines.

After the largest quake, civil defence authorities in New Zealand told people in some coastal areas to immediately get to higher ground.

Earlier, a large 7.2 magnitude quake struck just east of the North Island. The country sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanic and seismic activity that rings the Pacific Ocean. That was later canceled, but the third, larger quake prompted a new warning.

"The natural disaster may not have been felt in some of these areas, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible", it said.

The same natural disaster has also prompted a tsunami warning for Australia's Norfolk Island, with the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre issuing a statement on Friday morning. New Zealand residents only reported gridlock as people fled their homes for higher ground, as well as some structural damage.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand was among those given an early morning wake-up. "I can only thank and acknowledge the tireless efforts of the men and women from up and down the coast who knew how to act, when to act, and what to do".

In Russell, New Zealand, Rita Baker told CNN that she had evacuated with other residents to a hill overlooking the Bay of Islands.

As scientists assess whether the tsunami threat is real, they say the first waves would arrive on the shores of Hawaii at 4:35 local time, or 6:35 p.m.

How strong were the earthquakes?

Patrick Ti'a Reid, 37, was among those in American Samoa, situated some 3,300 km (2,000 miles) north-east of New Zealand, who had been told to evacuate to higher ground in an emergency bulletin.

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