New Zealand earthquakes: Tsunami warnings lifted after evacuations

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Three powerful earthquakes struck off the coast of New Zealand on Friday, triggering tsunami warnings that were later stood down.

Evacuation orders were issued for residents living in coastal areas of the North Island after the third and strongest earthquake hit.

The national emergency agency warned of a tsunami threat along the east coast.

There were reports of chaos in some towns as hundreds of people tried to reach higher ground.

But by Friday afternoon, authorities said the largest waves had passed. Residents were told they could return home but were warned to stay off beaches.

The South Pacific archipelagos of New Caledonia and Vanuatu were also warned to prepare for dangerous waves.

Their coasts could see wave surges as high as 3m (10ft), while parts of South America – including Peru, Ecuador and Chile – were warned they could see 1m waves reaching their coasts.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said “tsunami waves have been observed”, but as yet no damage has been reported.’Bumper to bumper’ traffic
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern posted on Instagram: “Hope everyone is ok out there.”

The three earthquakes all came during early hours at magnitudes of over seven.

The most powerful, at 8.1 magnitude, struck at around 08:30 (21:30 GMT) near the uninhabited Kermadec Islands, 1000 km (621 miles) north-east of New Zealand.

While earlier tsunami warnings had been called off, the third quake prompted the National Emergency Management Agency to send out a new alert and tsunami sirens sounded in some areas.

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