Land tsunami warning lifted; 7.1m earthquake strikes near Te Araroa in North Island

QUAKE LATEST
* A massive 7.1 magnitude quake has struck off New Zealand’s east coast
* A tsunami warning was issued but residents can now return home
* While the land warning has been lifted, a marine warning is still in place. Strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges are expected
* The quake struck at 2.27am and was widely felt across the North Island and parts of the South Island
* ‘Terrifying’, ‘Oh my god’, ‘Biggest one I’ve ever felt’: Residents tell of horror of shaking
* PM Jacinda Ardern: “[I] hope everyone is OK out there.”
* Issues reported in receiving cellphone emergency alert notifications

The National Emergency Management Agency says residents who evacuated after an early morning tsunami warning – which followed a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shook much of the country – can now 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.”

While the land warning has been lifted, a marine warning is still in place.

The agency says strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges are still expected in coastal areas.

Strong currents and surges can cause harm including injuries and drowning, it says.

People in or near the sea in these areas should move out of the water and off beaches or shore areas.

This includes moving away from harbours, rivers and estuaries.

The agency says there is 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 earthwuake, 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 say they are now conducting “reassurance” patrols along the East Cape this morning to help those who evacuated.

Geonet reported the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck near 95km east of Te Araroa, in the North Island, at 2.27am, causing ‘severe’ shaking.

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

The intensity of the quake was described as severe.

The quake was felt across New Zealand, with people in Auckland, Wellington and even Christchurch reporting the shaking.

Listen to latest reports on Newstalk ZB:

The National Emergency Management Agency said the first waves may have reached New Zealand in the areas around East Cape about 3.14am.

“Tsunami activity will continue for several hours and the threat must be regarded as real until this warning is cancelled.”

Strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges near the shore are expected in all coastal areas of the North and South Islands, Great Barrier Island and Stewart Island.

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.

They advised people to stay away from the foreshore and out of the water because a marine threat was still in place.

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

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

“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, adding he had not heard any warning alarms after the shake.

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

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)

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.”

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

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

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.

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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