Residents of New Zealand's North Island have been issued evacuation alerts over fears a "damaging tsunami" could be on its way following three large earthquakes in the span of a few hours.
An 8.1-magnitude earthquake near the Kermadec Islands, about 1000km north of New Zealand, sparked urgent calls for people to "run, walk or cycle" immediately to their nearest high ground.
"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 New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency said in a tweet on Friday morning.
"People evacuating should walk, run or cycle if possible to reduce chance of getting stuck in traffic. Do not return until all-clear is given by Civil Defence," another tweet said.
The quake is reportedly the biggest magnitude recorded globally since an 8 magnitude earthquake struck a remote part of the Amazon jungle in Peru in 2019.
The event also sparked a tsunami alert for Australia's Norfolk island, with waves expected to begin about 10am (local time) and locals urged to stay away from the water's edge.
"A tsunami watch has been issued for Australia following an 8.1-magnitude earthquake near the Kermadec Islands north of NZ. There is a potential tsunami threat to Norfolk Island in the coming hours," a tweet from the Bureau of Meteorology Australia said just before 7am (AEST) on Friday.
Residents were warned to expect dangerous rips, currents and some localised overflowing at the water's edge.
"People in these areas are advised to get out of the water and move away from the immediate water's edge," the BoM said.
It was the third earthquake above a magnitude 7 to hit the Pacific region Friday morning, with a 7.3 magnitude striking at 2.27am (local time) east of Te Araroa and a 7.4 quake near Raoul Island in the Kermadecs at 6.41am (local time).
Alerts were also issued for those in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Loyalty Islands and Hawaii.
Just after 1pm (local time) the threat of a tsunami was downgraded to a beach and marine threat due to the largest waves having passed, meaning people who had been evacuated could return home.
Waves were expected to be between one and three metres high, with tsunami warnings also in place for Australia's Norfolk Island.
"All people who evacuated can now return. The advice remains, for all areas under Beach and Marine threat, to stay off beach and shore areas," a notice read.
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