Several powerful earthquakes occurred near the New Zealand coast on Thursday evening and Friday morning, setting off tsunami warnings for New Zealand and tsunami clocks for Hawaii.
The strongest was an 8.1 quake that struck about 620 miles northeast of New Zealand on Friday morning, the US Geological Survey said. Two previous quakes recorded magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3.
Small tsunami waves were seen later on Friday, but there were no reports of serious damage or loss.
Jennifer Eccles, an earthquake expert at the University of Auckland, said the 8.1 Temblor is on the high end of the scale for those who only affect the Earth’s ocean crust.
“That’s about as big as it gets,” she said.
While the quakes triggered warning systems and caused congestion and chaos in New Zealand as people moved to a higher level, they did not appear to pose a widespread threat to life or major infrastructure.
After the 8.1 magnitude quake, New Zealand civil protection authorities told people in certain areas on the east coast of the North Island on Friday morning to move to a higher level immediately and not stay in their homes. You said a damaging tsunami was possible.
The New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency tweeted: “People near the coast from the BAY OF ISLANDS to WHANGAREI, from MATATA to TOLAGA BAY and from GREAT BARRIER ISLAND must be able to move IMMEDIATELY from all tsunami evacuation zones or inland to the next plateau,” wrote they.
“I hope everyone is fine out there,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrote on Facebook.
A tsunami watch that had been issued for Hawaii was canceled Thursday afternoon. There was also no threat to the US west coast.
Officials in New Zealand had issued a notice for coastal areas after the first shallow, strong earthquake hit the northeast coast on Thursday evening.
“We expect the coastal areas of New Zealand to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable waves on the shore,” tweeted the New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency.
The US Geological Survey said the first quake was centered at a depth of 13 miles under the ocean, about 108 miles northeast of the city of Gisborne. Gisborne residents reported mild to moderate shaking.
A 6.3 magnitude quake struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch in 2011, killing 185 people and destroying much of the city center.
Contributor: The Associated Press