Panicked locals evacuate after tsunami warning as 7.9 earthquake strikes off Alaska

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1 NEWS | Associated Press

The New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence says there is no tsunami threat to New Zealand after a powerful magnitude 7.9 earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska which prompted evacuations and warnings.

Civil Defence are, however, warning Kiwis there may be strong sea currents and surges from midday today through to midday tomorrow. Coastal flooding is not expected.

The powerful earthquake struck last night near the town of Kodiak about 12.32am local time (10.32pm NZT) prompting a tsunami threat that sent the state's residents along the southern coast and western Canada fleeing for higher ground.

After a few intense hours, the tsunami warning was cancelled, allowing people to return home from shelters. There were no immediate reports of damage, not even on Kodiak Island, the closest land to the epicentre of the magnitude 7.9 quake.

For Alaskans accustomed not only to tsunami threats but also to regular drills, the early morning alert that made cellphone alarms go off still created some fretful moments.

The phone message read: "Emergency Alert. Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland."

The quake prompted the tsunami warning stretching thousands of miles along Alaska's southern coast, from Attu in the Aleutian Islands to Canada's border with Washington state.

Kodiak is located about 200 miles (321km) south of Anchorage, the state's largest city, which was not under a tsunami threat.

Elsewhere in the United States, Washington state, Oregon, California and Hawaii were under tsunami watches, which eventually were lifted.

People reported on social media that the quake was felt hundreds of miles away, in Anchorage.

Reports varied about how long the quake's shaking lasted, depending on where you were.

A map showing the epicentre and affected areas of a magnitude 7.9 earthquake which struck in the Gulf of Alaska

A map showing the epicentre and affected areas of a magnitude 7.9 earthquake which struck in the Gulf of Alaska.

Source: USGS

In the popular cruise ship town of Seward, about 110 miles (177 kilometres) south of Anchorage, fire chief Eddie Athey said the quake felt like a gentle rattle and lasted for up to 90 seconds.

Kodiak was projected to get the first tsunami wave, and officials warned residents to evacuate if they lived in low-lying areas.

Residents scrambled to safety, and some sought refuge in schools that were transformed into shelters above the 100-foot level.

The wave never materialised there or in other coastal communities like Homer and Seward, and the warning was soon cancelled.

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