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8.1 quake triggers tsunami warnings

by The Associated Press | March 6, 2021 at 4:40 a.m.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — One of the strongest earthquakes to hit the South Pacific in modern history triggered tsunami warnings across the ocean and forced thousands of people in New Zealand to evacuate coastal areas Friday. Small tsunami waves were seen, but little damage was apparent hours later.

The magnitude 8.1 quake in the Kermadec Islands region about 620 miles from New Zealand’s two main islands was the largest in a series of temblors over several hours, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and 7.3.

In the afternoon, the National Emergency Management Agency said the threat had passed and people could return to their homes, although they should continue to avoid beaches.

After the largest quake, civil defense authorities in New Zealand told people in some coastal areas to immediately get to higher ground. They said a damaging tsunami was possible, and waves could reach up to 10 feet.

Emergency Management Minister Kiri Allan told reporters that people had followed the advisory.

“They felt the long or strong earthquakes and they knew to grab their bag and head into the highlands,” she said. “I can only thank and acknowledge the tireless efforts of the men and women from up and down the coast who knew how to act, when to act, and what to do.” The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cautioned that the quake could cause tsunami waves of up to 10 feet in Vanuatu and up to 3 feet in Tonga, other South Pacific islands and Latin America’s Pacific coast.

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