Powerful 7.8 Quake Strikes New Zealand, Triggering Small Tsunami

People stand in Tory Street after being evacuated from buildings in Wellington after a 6.6 earthquake based around Cheviot in the South island shock the capital, New Zealand.

The magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck just after midnight in a mostly rural area close to the city of Christchurch

A powerful earthquake struck New Zealand’s South Island early today, shaking residents awake, causing damage to buildings and prompting emergency services to warn people along the coast to move to higher ground to avoid tsunami waves.

The magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck just after midnight in a mostly rural area close to the city of Christchurch, but appeared to be more strongly felt in Wellington, the capital, more than 200 kilometers to the north. The quake was followed by a number of strong aftershocks.

The quake temporarily knocked out New Zealand’s emergency call number, 111, police reported. It caused items to fall from shelves and windows to break in Wellington, and forced hundreds of tourists onto the streets as hotels were evacuated. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries in the city.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management reported that a tsunami wave struck at about 1.50 AM and warned residents living in low-lying areas anywhere along the country’s east coast to move to higher ground.

Information from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center indicated that the tsunami waves could be highest around the South Island town of Kaikoura, at about 1.5 meters (5 feet).

The Hawaii-based center said it did not expect the quake to generate a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami.

Within New Zealand, there was confusion about the tsunami threat.

The ministry had earlier sent out a message on Twitter saying there was no tsunami threat to the country. But then it sent out another message — “situation has changed – tsunami is possible” — before reporting that a tsunami had hit. The ministry said people on the coast near the epicenter could expect waves of between 3 and 5 meters (10 and 16 feet).

While there were no immediate reports of any major damage or injuries in Christchurch, the quake brought back memories of a magnitude-6.3 earthquake that struck the city in 2011, destroying much of the downtown area and killing 185 people in one of New Zealand’s worst disasters.

Today’s quake was centered farther away from Christchurch than the one in 2011, which caused an estimated $25 billion in damage.

As today’s quake hit, Christchurch resident Hannah Gin had just sat down in her living room to watch a replay of this weekend’s All Blacks versus Italy rugby match when her house started shaking. Upstairs, her mother let out a scream.

Source: Business Standard