7.3m earthquake strikes near Te Araroa in North Island of New Zealand; land and marine tsunami warnings lifted

* A 7.3 magnitude quake struck off New Zealand’s east coast at 2.27am
* A tsunami warning was issued but residents can now return home
* A marine warning has also been lifted
* The quake was widely felt across the North Island and parts of the South Island
* ‘Terrifying’, ‘Oh my god’, ‘Biggest one I’ve ever felt’: Residents said of the shaking
* PM Jacinda Ardern: “[I] hope everyone is OK out there.”
* Issues reported in receiving cellphone emergency alert notifications
* 7.4 magnitude earthquake strikes at 6.41am off Raoul Island, the largest of the Kermadec Islands.

A massive 7.3 magnitude earthquake off the North Island’s east coast sparked tsunami warnings and evacuations this morning.

The quake struck at 2.27am about 95km east of Te Araroa, causing “severe” shaking felt throughout much of the country.

Land and marine warnings that followed the earthquake have been lifted and people have been told they may return to their homes.

Meanwhile, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck at 6.41am this morning off Raoul Island, the largest of the Kermadec Islands.

Trains were halted and lines across eastern parts of the North Island are now closed ahead of track inspection for possible quake damage.

People in Auckland, Wellington and even Christchurch all reported feeling the quake.

“She was a beauty, it really shook. I’m quite frightened, I’ve got no idea if there’s going to be a tsunami, it was massive,” Rex from Gisborne told Newstalk ZB’s Bruce Russell.

“It’s the biggest I’ve felt in a long, long time and I’m 80.”

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said it was a big shake.

“Everyone was awake, our Civil Defence teams got into action immediately to make sure everyone was safe and sound.”

She said she’s incredibly proud of the locals who acted fast.

“Gisborne people, Tairāwhiti people, when there’s an earthquake and it is long or strong, they self-evacuate. Because you cannot wait for locally-created earthquakes, you need to self-evacuate.”

One Twitter user from Wellington described the first earthquake as “terrifying”.

In tears on Newstalk ZB, Helen in the Chatham Islands said: “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever felt. It went on and on and on. I’m in the old stone house and I didn’t know where to stand because it’s all rock. I’ve never felt one so big – it must be massive across New Zealand. It died down and then went on and on again.”

Janice in Napier told the station: “I’m still shaking. I was lying in bed … and the next minute, the quake comes in and it lasted for ages. The biggest one I’ve felt. This was one jolt and it kept going. I eventually got up and sat under the doorway, oh my God.”

And Eric in Manawatu said: “It woke me up. It was a rattle, and the house was swaying a bit. But it went on and on – it kept going. It wouldn’t stop. I thought, OK what’s next?”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has posted on Instagram: “Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast who would have felt the full force of that earthquake”. She repeated the message on Facebook:

Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast whowould have felt the full force of that earthquake (the map here shows just how many people were reporting it across the country)

By 3.15am more than 60,000 people had reported feeling the quake via Geonet’s website.

Harry in New Plymouth told Newstalk ZB: “That was a bit of a doozy. I felt it as clear as if it was happening underneath. It woke me up… I have the map in front of me, she certainly was a jolt. To be that far away and it still got to us. If you are near the water folks, get away.”

Anne told Newstalk ZB she was surprised to feel the earthquake in Tauranga.

“I thought a house on a concrete floor base wouldn’t shake.”

Neville from Havelock North said he could feel it coming, and then it got loud.

“I was down in the sitting room, sitting in my chair, and all of sudden, I could feel the rolling coming. My cat shot outside, and then it hit.”

In the South Island, Ian from Greymouth said there was a delayed reaction.

“The earthquake here lasted for about 15 seconds only, enough to create a bit of noise, but we felt it at 2.31.”

Beck Vass said on Twitter it “was very long and wobbly in Tauranga”.

KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the network was shut soon after the tremor struck,from Napier to Wairoa, Tauranga to Kawerau, and from Kawerau to Murupara, pending inspections by track staff.

“Two log services were halted while we worked to ensure the safety of our network, however both have now resumed their service.”

No other freight services were affected.

Moyle said the inspection of the Napier line would take place later today as the next train wasn’t scheduled to run until tomorrow.

Some people on social media reported feeling the quake as far as Dunedin and Greymouth.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield was also woken by the quake and shared advice on Twitter from Civil Defence.

There have been 15 smaller earthquakes since the 2.27am jolt, ranging from magnitude 5.4 to 4.4, also centred near East Cape.

The National Emergency Management Agency says residents who evacuated after the early morning tsunami warning can return to their homes.

“Based on current scientific advice and information from coastal tsunami gauges there is no longer a threat to land areas. People who have evacuated can now return home,” the agency said in a tweet just after 5am.

“There is no need to evacuate other areas unless directly advised by local civil defence authorities. Coastal inundation (flooding of land areas near the shore) is no longer expected as a result of this event.”

And just after 6am, it said the threat of strong and unusual currents had passed.

“Based on GNS Science’s modelling and ocean observations on tide gauges and the New Zealand DART Buoys, our science advice is that the threat of strong and unusual currents has now passed for all parts of New Zealand including the Chatham Islands,” it tweeted.

The agency just after 5am said there was no need to evacuate other areas unless advised by local civil defence authorities.

Coastal flooding is no longer expected.

The agency had earlier issued a tsunami warning for New Zealand coastal areas after the massive earthquake, which was centred off the East Cape.

It had asked people near the coast from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay to move to higher ground. Police this morning conducted “reassurance” patrols along the East Cape this morning to help those who evacuated.

The earthquake was originally reported as a 7.4m quake, then downgraded.

Listen to Newstalk ZB:

Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence says there is “no land threat to Hawke’s Bay”.

“You may return home if you have evacuated,” it said on Facebook.

Fire and Emergency NZ had this morning implemented tsunami procedures across eastern coastal regions as a precaution.

People across New Zealand were woken by an emergency notification on their phones this morning activated by the government agency overseeing the unfolding tsunami threat.

Bay of Plenty Civil Defence said an emergency mobile alert had been issued by the National Emergency Management Agency warning of coastal flooding in the East Coast of the North Island from the east of Cape Runaway to Tologa Bay.

The alert had been sent to residents in those areas.

But not everyone in the tsunami zone reported getting the alert – and others in the South Island got up to 17 warnings.

A man living in Tologa Bay said he did not receive any emergency texts or tsunami alerts this morning.

He said while there were social media posts on Twitter and Facebook from local civil defence about the need to evacuate, a lot of elderly people in the region did not have access to this technology.

“We need alarms. We need coastal tsunami alert systems that go off,” he told NewstalkZB’s Bruce Russell.

He said scared families had taken refuge up a nearby hill.

A person living in the South Island reported getting up to 17 alerts on an iPhone.

According to the NEMA website emergency mobile alerts are messages about emergencies sent by authorised emergency agencies to capable mobile phones.

The alerts can be targeted to areas affected by serious hazards and will only be sent when there is a serious threat to life, health or property, and, in some cases, for test purposes.

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