Tsunami warning in New Zealand after undersea earthquake
Civil defence officials in New Zealand have issued a tsunami warning after an underwater earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale.
By Paul Chapman in Wellington
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii said the earthquake in the seabed, 100 miles west of New Zealand’s South Island city of Invercargill, “has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicentre within minutes or hours”.
Whether the earthquake, which struck at 0922 Wednesday GMT, had actually generated a tsunami was not known. But the Centre issued a warning based on evaluation of the seismic event.
Civil defence emergency procedures were activated in Southland, New Zealand’s most southerly region, and coastal residents were asked to stay tuned to their radios.
The earthquake’s power makes it one of the largest in the world this year, compounded by the fact that its focal depth was less than five miles below the earth’s surface.
An aftershock measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale struck about 20 minutes later.
The quake was felt strongly by residents in Dunedin, Invercargill and the ski resort of Queenstown. It was also felt as far away as Wellington in North Island.
People ran from restaurants in Queenstown as buildings shook, and lights and phone lines went down.
Simon Darby told the New Zealand Herald that a rumble in the ground led him to run outside his house in the lakeside town of Wanaka.
“It must have lasted about two and a half minutes. I lived in Tokyo for three years so I know what large quakes are like. This was easily the longest and biggest I have ever felt.