'Move immediately': Tsunami warning for North Island after 7.3, 7.4 and 8.1 earthquakes

Publish Date
Friday, 5 March 2021, 8:45AM


* Swarm of earthquakes in Pacific - including magnitude 8.1 quake in Kermadec Islands at 8.28am (NZT) - spark Civil Defence warnings.

* Tsunami warning for large parts of North Island coast - people near coast from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, Great Barrier Island, and west coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Ahipara told to move immediately

* There are two different types of tsunami threat. Most of the country is under a beach and marine threat. The parts where evacuations are taking place are under a land and marine threat.

* Evacuation orders "not done lightly" and on basis of watching tsunamis in Indonensia and Japan, official says. "We want people to take this seriously.'

* 8.1 earthquake followed 7.4 shake at 6.41am and 7.1 quake off North Island coast at 2.27am

Click here to view the latest updates

Many North Island coastal residents have been told to move immediately to higher ground after a third massive earthquake off New Zealand.

The magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the Kermadec Islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, at 8.28am (NZT).

"People near coast from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, and Great Barrier Island must move immediately to nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible," the National Emergency Management Agency alerted at 8.45am.

The National Emergency Management Authority said residents must evacuate these areas even if they did not feel the earthquake. "DO NOT WAIT. A damaging tsunami is possible."

Hundreds of residents are fleeing homes, workplaces and schools to get to higher ground, with reports of chaos in towns such as Whangarei and Whakatane. There are reports of people at the beach in Tologa Bay, with cameras.

Businesses in central Whangarei have evacuated and employees are been advised to go to higher ground.

A central Whangarei worker said it was packed in town as people tried to evacuate. "[There were] heaps of people standing on the street outside their workplaces."

This is the third and largest quake above magntiude seven to hit the region this morning.

A 7.4 quake struck near Raoul Island in the Kermadecs at 6.41am and many New Zealanders were shaken awake by a magnitude 7.3 quake off the North Island's east coast at 2.27am.

Both of these earlier quakes triggered Civil Defence tsunami warnings that were later lifted but the third quake has sparked the strongest warnings yet.

A tsunami alert is sounding out in the Whangārei suburb of Onerahi.

People are being told to walk, run or cycle if possible to reduce chance of getting stuck in traffic.

The national emergency management agency says people should not return to low-lying coastal areas until the all-clear is given by Civil Defence.

According to USGS the latest quake to hit off the Kermedec Islands was magnitude 8.1 and 19.4km deep.

Ōhope resident Leslie Peake said traffic was "bumper to bumper" all the way down the main drag Harbour Rd and there were "huge queues of people evacuating".

She said the mood was highly "stressful" and she and her husband would not be getting to higher ground for a while as they waited in traffic.

Hills across the town were "full" with people seen sitting at the top looking out at the ocean, she said.

She said she had been in her bedroom when she received the alert and saw it pop up on the television so she and her husband loaded up their car with their cat and dog.

"We thought maybe we should get moving."

This morning's quake had been really strong where Peake was and she said it had been "really rocking and rolling" and "went on for ages".

"It was really rattling for some time."

Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer says the town is evacuating following the order to move to higher ground.

She said most of the coastal Bay of Plenty town is needing to evacuate.

"Most people are underway, all moving out," Riesterer said. "All of the alerts went off on mobile phones at the same time so everyone is moving.

"People know where to go. They either head towards Gisborne or they come up to Hospital Hill."

Ōpōtiki had a population of about 4800 according to the 2018 census and is located right on the coast, with the Waioeka River and the Otara River surrounding the town.

"I think people are [well prepared] ... but it's about making sure all the people get the message and move on out."

While the Kermedec Islands are expected to fare the worst, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Nuie, Pitcarin Island, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Wallis and Fortuna and New Zealand are alll in the firing line. (edited)

The waves are expected to be anywhere from .3 to one metre above the tide level.

Whangarei Intermediate School is evacuating, with pupils walking to higher ground at the cycle track near their school.

A tsunami warning has been issued for the whole of American Samoa as a result of the quake activity here.

The US National Weather Service Pago Pago issued the alert shortly before 9amNZT.
"All residents along the coasts must evacuate immediately to higher ground immediately."


* Areas under threat: People near the coast in the following areas must move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible. DO NOT STAY AT HOME

* The East Coast of the North Island from the BAY OF ISLANDS to WHANGAREI, from MATATA to TOLAGA BAY including Whakatane and Opotiki adnd GREAT BARRIER ISLAND.

* The earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible.

* PEOPLE IN ALL OTHER AREAS who felt a LONG OR STRONG earthquake that made it hard to stand up, or lasted longer than a minute, should MOVE IMMEDIATELY to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible.

* Evacuation advice overrides the current Covid-19 Alert Level requirements. Listen to local Civil Defence authorities and follow any instructions regarding evacuation of your area. If you are told to evacuate do not stay at home. Stay 2 metres away from others if you can and if it is safe to do so.

* Do not return until an official all-clear message is given by Civil Defence.

* Walk, run or cycle if at all possible to reduce the chances of getting stuck in traffic congestion.

* The first wave may not be the largest. Tsunami activity will continue for several hours and the threat is real until this warning is cancelled.

* The National Emergency Management Agency and GNS Science will continue to assess the threat and provide an update within an hour.

* An Emergency Mobile Alert will be issued to all capable phones in the areas under threat. People who are near the coast in the AREAS UNDER THREAT listed above or near the coast and felt the earthquake LONG OR STRONG, should MOVE NOW. DO NOT WAIT for an Emergency Mobile Alert to your mobile phone, or local warnings.

* People in all New Zealand coastal areas should:
Listen to the radio and/or TV for updates, and NZCivilDefence Twitter
Listen to local Civil Defence authorities
Stay out of the water (sea, rivers and estuaries, this includes boats)
Stay off beaches and shore areas
Do not go sightseeing
Share this information with family, neighbours and friends

* Only messages issued by the National Emergency Management Agency represent the official warning status for New Zealand. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) messages do not represent the official warning status for New Zealand.

* This warning will remain in effect until a cancellation message is issued by the National Emergency Management Agency.


A 7.4m earthquake near the Kermadec Islands has sparked another Civil Defence tsunami activity warning, following a massive jolt off the New Zealand east coast that woke thousands Kiwis earlier on Friday.

Authorities issued a national advisory at 7.30am, warning people of tsunami activity near the Kermadec Islands. It followed a 7.4 magnitude earthquake off Raoul Island, the largest of the islands, at 6.41am.

"We expect New Zealand coastal areas to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore," the National Emergency Management Agency said. "People in or near the sea in the following areas should move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, rivers and estuaries."

Areas under threat are east coast areas of Northland - from the Bay of Islands to Whāngārei.

The quake followed an earlier earthquake that struck at 2.27am about 95km east of Te Araroa, causing "severe" shaking throughout much of the country.

Land and marine warnings that followed the 7.3 earthquake were later lifted and people have been told they may return to their homes.

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:

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.

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.