Residents of Northland's Tutukaka coast are used to tsunami warnings, but Helen Olsen, of Ngunguru, says "this time seems really real".
A tsunami evacuation warning is in place for parts of the North Island’s east coast after the Kermadec Islands was rocked by a second major earthquake this morning, this time a magnitude 8.1 quake at a depth of 10km.
The quake struck at 8.28am, prompting Civil Defence to issue the warning for people near the coast from the Bay of Islands to Whangārei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Whakatane, and Great Barrier Island, to move immediately to higher ground.
People evacuating should walk, cycle or run if possible to avoid being struck in traffic.
The tsunami warning overrides all official Covid-19 rules.
Olsen told 1 NEWS she fled her home, leaving her cats, to get to higher ground this morning.
"We've had this happen before but this time seems really real, some people were running, the school is just not far from our house and the road was crazy, people trying to get to the school to get to their children," she said.
"I've spoken to lots of locals and they are literally up on hills, taking it very seriously.
"We've left the cats at home, we've left our home and yeah it does feel scary."
Olsen said she was worried what damage might be at home whenever they are allowed to return.
But she said sirens were "going hard out" when they escaped.
"When we drove out of our driveway and the sirens were going. We've got one very close to us, it gives you a sense of panic and urgency, one of the neighbours ran out to her car."
Olsen said she's driven to a town about 20 minutes away from home.