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All tsunami warnings cancelled after magnitude 8.1 quake near Kermadecs

As it happened: 1 NEWS's live updates after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck the Kermadec Islands, prompting a tsunami evacuation warning for parts of the North Island. All have now been lifted and this live updates article has now concluded.

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Kiri Allen says people can return to beaches, but urges them to take care. Source: 1 NEWS

The story so far: 

  • A 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Kermadec Islands at 8:28am
  • The quake prompted an evacuation warning for parts of the North Island
  • People are allowed to return to their homes as the land warning has been lifted
  • All warnings have now been lifted.
  • The latest updates are available on the Civil Defence website

4.05pm: Minister for Emergency Management Kiri Allen praises people for their response to the earthquakes and tsunami, particularly those who evacuated in the early of the hours of the morning when they felt a long, strong earthquake.

She also warns people to take care, even though the alerts have been lifted.

"Whilst there are no longer the restrictions on being able to go down to the beach, please exercise prudent judgement."

4.04pm: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country has seen a run of bad luck, in response to the tsunami and earthquakes today alongisde the Covid-19 pandemic.

3.52pm: All tsunami warnings and alerts have now been lifted, the National Emergency Management Agency says.

That includes all beach and marine alerts.

It's now safe for all people to go to the beach around the country and NEMA says no further updates are anticipated.

However NEMA warns unusual and strong currents may still be possible in coastal waters. 

"For their safety, people should therefore remain cautious about going into or on the water for the rest of today and first check conditions," it says.

3.25pm: On a lighter note: while filming during our tsunami threat coverage today, a 1 NEWS camera operator captured some striking video of hammerhead sharks swarming a school of fish off Northland. Check it out at the link here.

3.18pm: GeoNet says it's "extremely unlikely" today's quakes will trigger another, significantly larger one within the next month, but another one of similar size is "very likely".

There's a 1 per cent chance of a magnitude 8.5 or greater earthquake striking in the area within the next 30 days.

Comparatively, it's very likely — up to 90 per cent chance— there'll be further, smaller aftershocks, including some up to magnitude 7.9. 

There's a 15 per cent chance of a similar sized earthquake, around magnitude 8.0, within the next 30 days.

2.50pm: The tsunami threat has been downgraded yet again, with all of the South Island and Auckland now removed from the warning area.

A beach and marine threat is now in place for the North Cape between Cape Runaway and Tolaga Bay, Great Barrier Island, and the Chatham Islands.

No other area is considered under threat.

People in those regions don't have to evacuate but are asked to stay away from coastal areas, beaches and the water.

2.10pm: The tsunami alert has been further downgraded.

A beach and marine threat remains in place for the following areas:

West coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Ahipara; east coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Māhia, including Whangārei, Great Barrier Island, Auckland's east coast, Waiheke Island, Waitematā Harbour, Tauranga, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki and Gisborne; west coast of the South Island from Farewell Spit to Milford Sound, including Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika; and the Chatham Islands.

1.54pm: Interislander's Aratere and Kaitaki are docking in Picton, as well as the Bluebridge ferry, several hours after departing from Wellington.

Gwen Walker, who was on the ferry to Picton, hoped they would still arrive in daylight after the delay.

"I don't mind, I'm a gold card holder in my golden years and I'm enjoying the break," she says.

1.41pm: All the locations impacted by the revised beach and marine alert:

  • West coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Makara, including the west coast of Auckland, Manukau Harbour, New Plymouth, Whanganui and the Kapiti Coast;
  • the east coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Lake Ferry including Whangarei, Great Barrier Island, the East Coast of Auckland, Waiheke Island, Waitemata Harbour, Tauranga, Whakatane, Opotiki, Gisborne and Napier;
  • the top of the South Island from Farewell Spit to Port Underwood including Nelson, Picton and the Marlborough Sounds;
  • and the west and south coasts of the South Island from Farewell Spit to the Catlins including Westport, Greymouth, Hokitika and Invercargill.

1.39pm: GNS senior scientist Graham Leonard is warning people to still stay out of the water, even though the land tsunami threat has lifted.

Strong sea surges and coastal disturbances are still expected for coastal regions around the country and people are warned to stay out of the water and avoid beaches.

For any aspiring surfers, Leonard's message is clear: stay out of the water.

"Tsunami are dangerous. We're not talking about shallow wind waves," he told 1 NEWS.

The strong currents often drag debris and sediment and can last minutes and a time.

"They're very dangerous to be in... People should be watching for currents and staying out of the water."

He also warns further aftershocks are likely, encouraging people to stay tuned to the National Emergency Management Agency.

1.30pm: The 1 NEWS breaking news broadcast has now finished on TVNZ 1, however extensive coverage is still available on 1NEWS.co.nz.

1.20pm: The biggest waves have now passed, the National Emergency Management Agency says. The tsunami warnings have now been downgraded.

Those who evacuated are allowed to return to their homes, but a beach and marine threat stays in place; people are warned to stay out of the water and away from beaches.

1.07pm: Auckland Transport has suspended all ferry services in and around the city until at least 2pm, a spokesperson confirms.

Britomart Train Station, in the CBD, has also been temporarily closed "due to the possibility of flooding".

West, south and Onehunga lines will run as far as Newmarket and eastern line trains will run as far as Panmure untul 3pm, with buses in place between Newmarket and Panmure and the central city.

12.57pm - The captain on the Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry sailing from Wellington to Picton has just announced that the Picton harbourmaster has closed the port. He says not sure when we will be able to dock but there'll be updates every half hour. It was scheduled to dock at 11:30am. 

12.50pm - Coastal inundation is still expected in the following areas: The West Coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Ahipara.

On the east coast from Cape Reinga to Whangārei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne, and Great Barrier Island.

12.48pm - A warning for strong, unusual currents and unpredictable surges near the shore remains in place for the following areas:

The West Coast of the North Island from Ahipara to Makara including the West Coast of Auckland, Manukau Harbour, New Plymouth, Whanganui and the Kapiti Coast.

The East Coast of the North Island from Whangārei to Matata including the East Coast of Auckland, Waiheke Island, Waitemata Harbour and Tauranga, from Tolaga Bay to Lake Ferry including Gisborne and Napier.

The West and South Coasts of the South Island from Farewell Spit to Puysegur Point including Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika.

The top of the South Island from Farewell Spit to Port Underwood including Nelson, Picton and the Marlborough Sounds.

The East and South Coasts of the South Island from the Waipara River to the Rakaia River including Christchurch and Banks Peninsula, from the Taieri River to Puysegur Point including Invercargill.

Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands are also included.

This means a threat to beach, harbour, estuary and small boat activities.

12.45pm - The full story on the the wave shot at Tokomaru Bay is below.

'Surreal' - First images appear to show tsunami waves reaching Tokomaru Bay

12.40pm - The Civil Defence says the severity of currents and surges will vary within a particular coastal area and over the period this warning is in effect. The first wave may not be the largest. Tsunami activity will continue for several hours and the threat must be regarded as real until this warning is cancelled.

12.37pm - A 6.2 magnitude quake has struck the Kermadec Island region at 12.12pm, at a depth of 10km. A number of quakes above a magnitude of 5.0 have struck the region through the morning following the biggest 8.1 magnitude quake.

12.30pm - The video of the wave filmed at Tokomaru Bay, north of Gisborne, we mentioned earlier is now above. We'll have a breakout story on that shortly.

12.20pm - The magnitude 7.4 quake that hit the Kermadec Islands before 7am was a "foreshock" to the magnitude 8.1 quake that struck around 8.30am. The second quake prompted a tsunami evacuation warning for much of the North Island's east coast. 

“The March 4 2021 M 8.1 earthquake was preceded ~107 minutes by an M 7.4 thrust earthquake located ~50 km west of the M 8.1. The proximity and timing of the two events indicates that the M 7.4 was likely a foreshock of the M 8.1 earthquake. In terms of seismic moment, the M 8.1 was ~11 x larger than the M 7.4 foreshock," GNS has said.

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The alert sent to mobile phones of Aucklanders left many confused about what they need to do. Source: 1 NEWS

12.15pm - A marine threat warning has been added for Kaiaua and the Firth of Thames, and Port Charles to Whiritoa by the Waikato Civil Defence Group.

"Unusually strong currents and unpredictable water flows near the shore can be expected. This means a potential danger to beach, harbour, estuary areas and small boat activities. Coastal inundation (flooding of land areas near the shore) is possible. stay off the water and off the beaches until further notice," the group's statement said. 

12.12pm - The entire staff from Napier port has been evacuated as it’s in a tsunami red zone in Hawke's Bay.

12.10pm - Updating the warning that was put in place for Auckland shortly before the start of the media conference. There is no evacuation order in place but people should stay out of the water and away from coastal areas.

12.08pm - To reiterate the messages from the media conference, people at higher ground should remain there until they get confirmation that it is safe to leave.

12.06pm - Fry says GNS are expecting a series of waves through the afternoon as a result of the 8.1 magnitude quake, including the potential some energy in harbours. That's the final update from the media conference in Wellington.

12.03pm - All staff at the Marsden Point Oil Refinery have been evacuated following the tsunami alert.

12.01pm - Waves are predicted to be around 1-3 metres at this stage but Fry says this could change over time as they collect more data. "Right now as we speak we're collecting more and more data, we're updating our forecast and the uncertainty of that model [changes]," says Fry.

11.59am - Minister Allan says the sirens this morning were only sent to people in areas where there was a threat to life.

11.58am - A large wave has purportedly been filmed at Tokomaru Bay north of Gisborne. We will have that video shortly once it has been verified.

11.55am - "For the areas that have been asked to evacuate, we got a window if you will of a surge that may be between 1 metre to 3 metres and that is why we have asked for that evacuation," Allan says.

11.52am - Fry says it is unlikely that there will be a bigger earthquake than the magnitude 8.1 quake that struck near the Kermadec Islands before 9am, but anything is possible.

11.50am - Ball is saying NEMA does not control the operation of tsunami sirens, they are operated by local Civil Defence groups or councils.

11.46am - GNS Scientist Bill Fry says there was no indication of the three large quakes this morning. "There's no way we can predict when these earthquakes will happen," he says. "The first one came without any significant warning then after that we see a big earthquake like this we know that we are more likely to see a big quake after that so we're particularly vigilant...looking for more earthquakes."

11.45am - Evacuation orders override current alert level restrictions, National Emergency Management Agency acting director, Roger Ball, has said.

11.44am - NEMA says the threat of a possible tsunami could last for several hours and those who have evacuated must stay where they are until an all clear message has been given by Civil Defence. 

11.43am - Those at higher ground should remain there, Minister Allan is saying from Wellington.

11.40am - People in coastal areas of Auckland should stay out of the water including rivers, stay away from beaches and not go sightseeing. People in Auckland should "listen to local civil defence authorities and follow any instructions regarding evacuation of your area". 

11.35am - There is a tsunami threat for all coastal areas of Auckland, including both the Manukau and Waitematā harbours.

11.32am - St John says they are not suspending any responses in any areas where an evacuation warning is in place.

11.28am - We will be getting an update from Wellington with Minister for Emergency Management Kiritapu Allan, National Emergency Management Agency acting director, Roger Ball, and GNS Scientist Bill Fry in the next few minutes.

11.21am - The evacuation warning has been extended to Hawke's Bay. Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence emergency management group Controller Ian Macdonald says wave activity was estimated to start in the region at 10:45am and will carry on for several hours.

11.16am - Paul Dryer in Whangārei says the harbour there has changed colour quite a bit and moved out a distance. He says it has gone a dark colour and a mist has come in from the ocean. Dryer says the colour change is unusual.

11.15am - The Northland DHB says Kaitaia, Bay of Islands, Dargaville and Whangārei Hospitals are not in the tsunami evacuation zone. "The hospitals are safe, and all necessary preparations have been made in case the tsunami makes land," the DHB said in a statement. "Any Northland DHB staff and patients attending appointments, and that are located in a building within the tsunami evacuation zone in Whangarei, have been evacuated."

11.05am - National Party leader Shane Reti, who is on high ground in Whangārei, has told RNZ he can see the ocean going out.

11.02am - Police and Fire and Emergency have both confirmed they will still be responding to emergency call outs in coastal areas in regions with an evacuation order.

11.00am - Schools in the Cook Islands, where a tsunami warning is place, are closing.

10.56am - Kerikeri resident Allan says some big swells are being seen in the inlet. He also says people are going fishing despite the warning.

10.53am - Maritime NZ is warning boaties in the evacuation zone is not to try and reach their vessels. For those on a boat in a marina or anchored up elsewhere, the advice is to secure the boat and evacuate inland with everyone else. Vessels in deep water should be okay, Maritime NZ says.

10.52am - People in Northland are now seeing surges.

10.50am - Journalist Irena Smith says the roads were "chocka" in Marsden Point this morning as people evacuated from the coastal areas. People were even told to get out of their cars and run, Smith said.

10.42am - A couple from Doubtless Bay say the mood up a hill where people are evacuated is sombre, as residents worry about their properties and pets.

10.39am - 1 NEWS' Northland reporter Helen Castles is in Doubtless Bay east of Kaitaia and she says schools have been evacuated in the area, with many petrol stations closed as well. She says the area is no stranger to tsunami warnings but this is the first time she has seen business owners close up and leave.

10.34am - People in all New Zealand coastal areas should: Stay out of the water (sea, rivers and estuaries, this includes boats), stay off beaches and shore areas, and not go sightseeing, Civil Defence say.

10.25am - A media conference is scheduled for 11.30am with the Minister for Emergency Management Kiritapu Allan and NEMA.

10.19am - To repeat earlier advice from Civil Defence - Evacuation advice overrides Alert Level 2 restrictions.

10.15am - A tsunami warning is in place for the Cook Islands.

10.05am - Ball said it was also hard to predict how long people would need to stay inland for.

10.03am - Acting director of the National Emergency Management Agency, Roger Ball, says the first waves won't be the biggest. The estimated wave height in the evacuation areas is between one to 3m.

9.59am - Police say a wave of 1 to 5m will hit Whakatāne in the next five to 10 mins

9.55am - Strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges near the shore are also expected in the following areas:

The West Coast of the North Island from Ahipara to Makara including the West Coast of Auckland, Manukau Harbour, New Plymouth, Whanganui and the Kapiti Coast.

The East Coast of the North Island from Whangārei to Matata including the East Coast of Auckland, Waiheke Island, Waitemata Harbour and Tauranga, from Tolaga Bay to Lake Ferry including Gisborne and Napier.

The West and South Coasts of the South Island from Farewell Spit to Puysegur Point including Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika.

The top of the South Island from Farewell Spit to Port Underwood including Nelson, Picton and the Marlborough Sounds.

The East and South Coasts of the South Island from the Waipara River to the Rakaia River including Christchurch and Banks Peninsula, from the Taieri River to Puysegur Point including Invercargill.

Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands are also included.

This means a threat to beach, harbour, estuary and small boat activities.

9.52am - Coastal inundation has been extended and is now expected in the following areas: The West Coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Ahipara.

On the east coast from Cape Reinga to Whangārei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne, and Great Barrier Island.