East coast of New Zealand struck by earthquake of 7.1 magnitude

A map from the U.S. Geological Survey shows the location of an earthquake that struck off

An earthquake of 7.1 magnitude has struck the North Island of New Zealand.

The earthquake hit at 4.40am on Friday, about 80 miles (130km) north-east of the East Cape community of Te Araroa, at a depth of 34 miles. Seven aftershocks have been registered.

Civil defence evacuated low-lying coastal areas after a tsunami warning was issued, although they later retracted the warning.

People living on the coast near the town of Gisborne, the area nearest the quake’s epicentre, were told to evacuate and get to higher ground or go as far inland as they could.

Haro McIIroy spoke to Radio New Zealand from a hill above his village, watching the sea with 25 other people. He said his community was evacuated within half an hour of the earthquake, although some people with children and elderly grandparents refused to come.

“It shook the house and scared the hell out of me and my boy,” he said. “One of those earthquakes that lifted the house. I picked up my son and I headed out on my drive.

“Anything that starts moving the house here is a tsunami warning and potential damage to property.”

In the low-lying Te Araroa, Aomihi Cook said about 200 people were evacuated to the hill above the town, where they were wrapped in blankets, keen to get on with their day. She said it was a relief that everyone got out so swiftly.

“There are a few earthquakes coming through, but most people are [saying] ‘I want my coffee’,” she told Radio New Zealand. “That is the number one topic of the whole hill.”

People as far north as Auckland and as far south as Nelson in the South Island reported feeling the shake, though there have not been any reports of injuries or serious damage.

Some trains were delayed in Auckland after the earthquake caused disruption to the track.

GeoNet seismologist Billy Fry told Radio New Zealand the earthquake was “ pretty major” and the “most significant New Zealand has seen for some time”.

He said aftershocks between a magnitude of 4 and 5 could be expected to continue in the region in the coming days and weeks.

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