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New Zealand rocked by three earthquakes in eight hours

Thousands of people on the North Island of New Zealand have been warned to evacuate to higher grounds after three large earthquakes struck the area, prompting a tsunami threat. 

The largest earthquake of the three struck the Kermadec Islands, located north-east of New Zealand’s North Island, in the early hours of Friday morning (March 6th, NZDT). Three earthquakes have struck in a matter of eight hours, sounding alarms and sirens of warning throughout the northern island.

The first quake (7.2 on the Richter scale) struck on the east side of the North Island. It was followed by a huge, 7.4-magnitude quake in the same area, then another massive one reading 8.0. More huge quakes are being felt across the country as authorities urge civilians to not wait and head to higher ground immediately. Officials are warning that the danger could last for hours.

New Zealand Earthquake

“People near coast from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, and Great Barrier Island must move immediately to nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible,” the National Emergency Management Agency alerted earlier this morning.

The first tsunami waves are beginning to hit the coast of Tokomaru Bay, as on-lookers sit up on hills watching the first surge come in. Experts warn that what may appear as smaller waves now, may turn into much bigger tsunamis.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has also released a tsunami warning for Norfolk Island. The Australian territory only has about 1,750 residents and currently has no mainland threat.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern took to Instagram following the first earthquake to send her well wishes to anyone who felt the quake. “Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast who would have felt the full force of that earthquake,” she wrote.