A severe earthquake centered on the East Cape has struck the North Island of New Zealand on Friday at 4:37 AM local time or 2:37 AM AEST. Estimated to be 7.1 in magnitude, the quake triggered a low-level tsunami and prompted authorities to ask residents to seek higher ground. No individual suffered any injury and they have now been allowed to return home.
The earthquake hit 169 kilometers northeast of Gisborne. The residents of the Tolaga Bay area had to leave their homes after a tsunami warning.
According to Caroline Holden, a seismologist at GNS Science, the earthquake caused aftershocks that included one that measured 6.2 in magnitude at 5:14 AM local time or 3:14am AEST. Fifty-seven aftershocks were recorded by 7:10 AM local time.
Some properties have been damaged but no one got hurt. Meanwhile, the tsunami was just a wave of 21 centimeters or eight inches and had no noticeable impact, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.
Gisborne residents were allowed to return to their homes at 8:30 AM local time after the authorities said that the greatest wave activity had already happened. Nevertheless, the tsunami threat has not been lifted yet so Gisborne residents are still advised to stay away from streams, estuaries and beaches.
The residents were clearly shaken. In an interview with Radio NZ, Haro McIlroy from Taharora Marae on Waipiro Bay said that the earthquake scared him and his boy. His house shook and rattled, which seemed like it was being lifted from the ground.
They had to seek higher ground. However, he says that the other people who also evacuated on a hill were calm.
East Cape resident Aomihi Cook adds that the earthquake was horrible. It was the first time Cook has experienced such an incident.
“Our homes, we don’t know. We heard the alarm and we all just evacuated and came up the hill,” says Cook. “We don’t know how our houses are but the sea looks pretty asleep to me but to be safe, we’re going to stay here until we’re told to go home.”