- Tsunami waves were seen following powerful South Pacific earthquakes
- Tens of thousands of coastal residents fled to the heights
- New Zealand recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake
Wellington, New Zealand:
Tens of thousands of coastal residents of New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu fled to the heights on Friday as a cluster of powerful earthquakes triggered a tsunami alert across the Pacific.
Warning sirens sounded across Noumea as authorities ordered evacuations, fearing that waves of up to three meters (10 feet) were heading towards French territory.
“People must leave the beaches and stop all water activities, and must not pick up their children from school to avoid creating traffic jams,” the spokesperson for the emergency services told public radio, Alexandre Rosignol.
In New Zealand, communities along parts of the North Island were warned to flee as tsunami warning sirens blared after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake that followed earthquakes in New Zealand. earlier land in the same region measuring 7.4 and 7.3.
“Don’t stay at home,” the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.
“People near the coast … must move immediately to the nearest heights, out of any tsunami relief areas, or as far inland as possible.”
The largest of the earthquakes struck about 1,000 kilometers (640 miles) off the coast of New Zealand at 8:28 a.m. (19:28 GMT), the US Geological Survey said.
It was preceded by two earthquakes that were also extremely powerful, in an unusually strong cluster, even for the Pacific Ring of Fire, where Earth’s tectonic plates collide.
New Zealand’s NEMA said the remoteness of the earthquakes had not minimized their potential impact.
“The earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, but the evacuation should be immediate as a destructive tsunami is possible,” he said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said Vanuatu and New Caledonia are likely to experience the biggest waves, measuring up to three meters.
“Based on all available data, dangerous tsunami waves are predicted for some coasts,” he said.
He said initial small waves had already been reported in Tonga, and small waves were also possible as far as Japan, Russia, Mexico and the South American coast.
No damage or injury has been reported from previous earthquakes, both of which generated tsunami warnings which were subsequently lifted.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was among those who woke up early in the morning.
“Hope everyone is doing well there, especially on the east coast which would have felt the full force of this earthquake,” she posted on Instagram after the initial shaking at 2:27 a.m.
New Zealand experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity, but Emergency Services Minister Kiri Allan said it had never experienced such a strong sequence of earthquakes.
“It was an amazing morning for many New Zealanders across the country,” she said.
“From 2:30 am they got up, worried about their homes and families.”
The South Pacific nation recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, when a 6.3 earthquake left 185 people dead in the South Island city.