Civil defence minister and East Coast MP Kiri Allan. Source: Mark Mitchell.
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  • New Zealanders on the east coast of the country’s North Island fled to higher ground this morning after a third offshore earthquake triggered tsunami warnings
  • The latest earthquake had a magnitude of 8.1, striking the Kermadec Islands northeast of the North Island
  • It followed a 7.4 magnitude quake in the same area and an earlier 7.2 magnitude quake roughly 900 kilometres away on the North Island’s east coast
  • Australia issued a warning to Norfolk Island, which is home to around 1750 people but said there is no threat to the mainland
  • Civil defence minister Kiri Allan praised the speed with which New Zealanders responded and said the civil defence threat overrides the current COVID-19 alerts

Thousands of New Zealanders on the east coast of the country’s North Island fled to higher ground this morning after the third offshore earthquake in less than eight hours triggered tsunami warnings.

Civil defence officials assisted residents in areas like Northland and Bay of Plenty as authorities cautioned that waves could reach three metres above tide levels.

The latest earthquake had a magnitude of 8.1, striking the Kermadec Islands northeast of the North Island.

It followed a 7.4 magnitude quake in the same area and an earlier 7.2 magnitude quake roughly 900 kilometres away on the North Island’s east coast.

There are no reports of damage or casualties from the earthquakes.

The country’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the primary areas under threat are from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Whakatane and Opotiki, and the Great Barrier Island.

“We want everyone to take this threat seriously. Move to high ground,” Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai told state broadcaster TVNZ.

Warnings have also been issued for other Pacific islands, such as Tonga, American Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and Hawaii, while Australia issued a warning to Norfolk Island, which is home to around 1750 people, but said there is no threat to the mainland.

“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,” NEMA said on Twitter.

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

Speaking to the media from the Beehive bunker — an underground crisis management command centre in Wellington — civil defence minister Kiri Allan acknowledged that it has been “an extraordinary morning for many New Zealanders up and down the country.”

“From 2:30 this morning, essentially, some people have been up, worried about their homes and their families.”

She also praised the speed with which New Zealanders responded to the emergency warnings and said the civil defence threat overrides the current COVID-19 alerts.

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