Magnitude 8.1 Earthquake Triggers Pacific Tsunami Alert; US West Coast Not Under Threat

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Tsunami warnings were issued on Friday after three Pacific territories after powerful earthquakes struck off New Zealand coast. Though the tsunami warnings were later lifted, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the threat was not totally over. It said part of South and Central America could witness small tsunami waves crashing into the shores from around 1330 GMT.

The tsunami warning for Hawaii and American Samoa were also lifted. "There is no further tsunami threat to American Samoa from this earthquake although minor sea level fluctuations may continue," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

From Southern Mexico to Chile

Pacific coastal areas from southern Mexico to Chile were under threat following the tsunami alert but the US West Coast was not considered in danger at any point, according to the

Mega-tsunami warning Pixabay

New Zealand's national emergency agency gave evacuation orders to residents living in coastal areas of the North Island, following which thousands of coastal residents in New Caledonia and Vanuatu fled for higher ground.

However, late on Friday, the authorities withdrew evacuation orders, saying the largest waves have now passed. "All people who evacuated can now return," the national emergency agency said.

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Evacuees formerly stranded in the earthquake-affected town of Kaikoura stand alongside the helicopter that brought them to the town of Woodend, near Christchurch, New Zealand - File Photo. Reuters

The largest of the many quakes struck around 1,000km off the New Zealand, according to the US Geological Survey. The most powerful quake was an 8.1 magnitude jolt, which struck at around 08:30 near the uninhabited Kermadec Islands.

60,000 People Felt the Jolt

The earthquake was described as severe by the people who felt it. As per reports, the jolt was felt by more than 60,000 people across the country.

"The earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible," New Zealand's National Emergency Management Agency said after two more powerful quakes were reported in the zone known as the Pacific ring of fire.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had cautioned that Vanuatu and New Caledonia were exposed to large waves measuring up to 3 metres in the wake of the tsunami. "Based on all available data, hazardous tsunami waves are forecast for some coasts," the agency said, according to the Channel News Asia.

Australia also declared a marine tsunami threat for the island of Norfolk, a small territory out in the seas. However, there was no tsunami warning for the mainland.

New Zealand observed the the grim 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake last week. The 6.3 magnitude earthquake had killed 185 people.