A powerful undersea earthquake struck north of New Zealand on Wednesday evening, prompting tsunami warnings in parts of the region.
A magnitude 8.1 earthquake, occurred at 8:28 a.m. NZST Friday, or at 2:28 pm Thursday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was about 600 miles northeast of the North Island, but the USGS said the quake “was strongly felt across much of New Zealand.”
The US Tsunami Warning Center issued warnings of possible tsunami waves ranging from 0.3 to 1 meters (1 to 3.3 feet) for Vanuatu and Fiji. A tsunami watch was issued and then cancelled for American Samoa.
The region is prone to earthquakes because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the ocean.
A tsunami warning was issued for New Zealand coasts, the country’s emergency management agency said on Twitter. Videos showed residents scrambling to higher ground as tsunami warning sirens blared on the coast of the island nation.
The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center canceled a tsunami watch Thursday for Hawaii that was issued after the huge earthquake The quake forced thousands of people to evacuate in New Zealand, but did not appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure.
Officials said the 8.1-magnitude quake was “directly related” to an earlier magnitude 7.4 earthquake in the same location two hours prior.
“Both of those occurred on the subduction interface between Pacific and Australia plates,” the USGS wrote on Twitter.
The latest (third) large earthquake–a M8.1– *is* directly related to the M7.4 in nearly the same location just under 2 hours before. Both of those occurred on the subduction interface between Pacific and Australia plates. https://t.co/3ma9reGssT
— USGS Earthquakes (@USGS_Quakes) March 4, 2021
New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency warned residents in areas ranging from the Bay of Islands down to Tolaga Bay to “move immediately” to higher ground or “as far inland as possible.” Officials said the tsunami advice overrides current COVID-19 pandemic requirements.
The earthquake was widely felt in New Zealand, and residents in the major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch reported being shaken awake.
In 2011, a magnitude 6.3 quake hit the city of Christchurch, killing 185 people and destroying much of its downtown.