Tsunami hits New Zealand after powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake

A tsunami has hit New Zealand after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country’s South Island. Thousands on the country’s east coast have fled after a warning to move to higher ground. The Civil Defence Ministry said people close to the epicentre could see waves three to five metres high. It described the tsunami as “an event of life-threatening or national significance”. Waves of up to between 1.5 and two metres have already hit the Kaikoura area and smaller ones hit Castlepoint and Wellington, according to New Zealand’s Geonet earth sciences group.

The first wave may not be the largest. Waves may continue for several hours.

New Zealand Civil Defence Ministry

The Civil Defence Ministry tweeted: “A tsunami has been generated, the first wave has arrived in the North Eastern Coast of the South Island.” St John Ambulance said it was sending helicopters carrying rescuers and doctors to the epicentre of the quake - 57 miles (91km) north of the South Island city of Christchurch. There were no immediate reports of any deaths but some reports of injuries were coming through, said St John’s. The quake hit around midnight local time, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The initial tremor was followed by aftershocks, including several above magnitude six.

If you are in a low lying area on the East Coast of the North, South or Chatham Islands move immediately to higher ground.

New Zealand Civil Defence Ministry