Massive Earthquake Leaves New Zealand Under Tsunami Warning

New Zealand has been left in fear and anticipation of a potential tsunami after a massive earthquake occurred just off of the coast of the North Island. The island has just been issued a tsunami warning and evacuations are beginning.

The quake hit at around 4:40 a.m. local time, and was felt by residents on the nearby island even as many of them still lay in bed. While any earthquake felt by the island would justly be a cause of concern and anxiety, this earthquake caused particular fear since it was a 7.2 magnitude quake, The Sun reports.

New Zealand has experienced other earthquakes in the last month, but all of them were under 6.0 magnitude.

“[The earthquake] follows a powerful 5.7 magnitude earthquake off the country’s North Island yesterday that was felt in Auckland and as far as the Great Barrier Reef,” Metro said. “The largest earthquake to hit New Zealand’s mainland was at Wairarapa in 1855, which had a magnitude of 8.2. More recently, a 6.0 quake caused widespread damage when it struck Christchurch in 2011; killing 185 people and injuring 164.”

The Inquisitr reported that, in February of this year, an earthquake led to the collapse of a cliff into the sea as well as multiple injuries and considerable damage.

But today, residents felt the power and force of a 7.2 earthquake occurring 105 miles off of the coast at a depth of around 19 miles. Extreme magnitude like this explains why many locals reported their experiences and shared their videos of the violent shaking on social media sites such as Twitter.

Very recently, a tsunami warning has been issued and evacuations are in the process, according to The Journal.

“In Te Araroa, nearly the entire population of 600 left their homes for higher ground according to local Iain Fraser. ‘It was pretty severe shaking for a couple of minutes. Then a couple of very light tremors after that,’ he said.”

While an earthquake this size can spark fear and anxiety, the only tsunamis (that is, earthquake-related waves) that have been spotted are 30 centimeters or under, CNN says. Nevertheless, New Zealanders do not take chances. They would much rather be safe than sorry.

“The undersea quake triggered a ‘very small’ tsunami that hit the country’s northern coast, US Geological Survey geophysicist John Bellini said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has not issued a Pacific-wide warning for potentially destructive ocean waves, but New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defense & Emergency Management issued a local tsunami warning, saying a wave of about 30 centimeters (11 inches) was recorded.”

Many locals have fled low ground or coastal areas and retreated to locations with higher altitudes. New Zealand sits on the circular “ring” of tectonic plates that lie in that region of the Pacific. This “circle” is more commonly known as “The Ring of Fire,” named so for the frequency and likelihood of tremors and earthquakes. Considering this, it is unsurprising why New Zealand and its inhabitants are still taking this earthquake and the threats it poses very seriously, as CNN further explained.

“‘The first tsunami activity has arrived. Tsunami activity will continue for several hours and the threat must be regarded as real until this warning is canceled,’ the [Ministry of Civil Defense & Emergency Management] said. It warned against boating and sightseeing in the area.”

According to Daily Mail, New Zealand experiences numerous tremors, usually averaging about 15,000 per year. This has not, however, desensitized them to the threats, but made them even more aware of the risks. While no other signs of tsunamis have been found, the public is remaining wary and careful as they wait for the warning to pass.

[Photo by Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race/Getty Images]