WELLINGTON -- A strong 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the east of New Zealand’s North Island on Friday, prompting a tsunami warning that was later withdrawn, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said, although residents were asked to stay alert.
“There is no longer a tsunami threat from this earthquake,” PTWC said in a statement.
There were no immediate reports of damage, but the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) advised people in some coastal areas to move immediately to high ground..
Local civil defence authorities said the tsunami threat would continue for several hours.
“Coastal inundation (flooding of land areas) is expected in areas under Land and Marine threat,” NEMA said in a tweet.
The closest major city to the epicentre is Gisborne with a population of about 35,500. People near the coast from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay were told to evacuate.
“Hope everyone is ok out there - especially on the East Coast who would have felt the full force of that earthquake,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern posted on Instagram.
There was threat to the capital Wellington and other regions, but civil defence authorities asked residents across the country to stay away from beaches and marine areas as there could be strong and unusual currents.
More than 60,000 people reported feeling the quake on GeoNet’s website, with 282 describing the shaking as “severe” and 75 saying it was “extreme”. Most others described it as light.
Aftershocks were still being recorded in the area.