Daily US Times: New Zealand has downgraded its tsunami warning after a powerful 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Kermadec Islands region early Friday, sparking fears of a tsunami.
According to the New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency, the heavy earthquake was the third to strike the area on Friday morning local time.
Residents in some areas got emergency alerts on their phones urging them to “EVACUATE NOW,” as tsunami sirens rang out.
Authorities issued a temporary evacuation order for people near the coast, warning residents, “Do not stay at home” as a “damaging tsunami is possible.”
The Kermadec Islands are 500 to 620 miles northeast of the country’s North Island. The East Coast of the North Island from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Whakatane and Opotiki and Great Barrier Island are all included in the Pacific nation’s tsunami warning.
The agency downgraded its warning on Friday afternoon from a “land and marine threat” to “beach and marine threat,” meaning all residents who evacuated can now return to their homes.
It added that unpredictable surges and strong currents may continue for several hours, and that people should stay away from beaches, rivers and shores.
Seismologist Bill Fry said in a press conference on Friday that the earthquake came “without any significant warning,” adding that in his 13 years responding to earthquakes and tsunamis in New Zealand, “this is the first time we’ve had this particular sequence.”