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Strong earthquake prompts brief tsunami alert

3 min

A 6.6-magnitude quake hit the south of New Zealand on Wednesday, sparking a brief tsunami alert across the Tasman Sea before being cancelled. The earthquake caused minor damage but no injuries have been reported.


Reuters - New Zealand and Australia issued tsunami warnings on Wednesday after an earthquake struck the south of New Zealand, causing minor damage but no injuries.


Australia’s weather bureau said a small tsunami had been recorded in New Zealand and another was detected in the Tasman Sea heading towards Australia’s southeast coast.


“Our deep ocean buoy in the southern Tasman Sea indicates a wave travelling across the Tasman. Because of the depth of the water we can not tell the wave height,” Chris Ryan, from Australia’s Tsunami Warning Centre, told Reuters.


The tsunami was not expected to be a destructive wave, but was a “marine threat” and could cause big seas, strong currents and coastal flooding, said Ryan.


Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology issued a statement advising people in low lying coastal areas to move to higher ground and for people to get out of the water.


“People in areas with threat to land inundation and flooding are strongly advised by emergency authorities to go to higher ground or at least one kilometre inland,” the bureau said.


New Zealand also issued a tsunami warning but later cancelled it.


The tsunami warnings were sparked by a shallow quake in New Zealand’s remote south.


The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences said the tremor, measuring 6.6 magnitude, struck at 9.22 p.m. (0922 GMT). An aftershock in the same area measuring 6.1 was reported about 20 minutes later.


The government institute said it was centred in the remote and unpopulated Fiordland region, about 150 km (95 miles) north west of the the country’s most southern city, Invercargill. It was measured at around five km (three miles) below ground level.


Local civil defence officials issued a warning about a “potential tsunami” for the region, because of conflicting reports about the quake’s size. The Japanese meteorological agency put the preliminary magnitude at 7.8, prompting the Pacific tsunami centre in Hawaii to issue a warning.


“There was a small wave, but it was not damage causing ... people probably wouldn’t have noticed it among the other waves,” Civil Defence spokesman Vince Cholewa told Reuters.


Local media said the quake was felt widely throughout the lower South Island as a long, rolling motion, sending goods falling from shop shelves, but said no injuries were reported.


“It was quite a large motion, the whole house was moving, the door was moving in the doorframe, and the fence posts were moving,” Invercargill resident Simon Wilson told Radio New Zealand.


The region, famed for its natural beauty of high mountains, wilderness and deep fiords or inlets, is known for strong earthquake activity.


A force 6.7 quake struck deep out to sea in October 2007, and a 7.2 tremor was recorded off the coast in August 2003.


New Zealand records around 14,000 earthquakes a year.


The last fatal earthquake in the geologically active country, caught between the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates, was in 1968 when an earthquake measuring 7.1 killed three people on the South Island’s West Coast.

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