A powerful earthquake measuring 7.9 hit the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island just before midnight there on Sunday, triggering multiple aftershocks and at least three tsunami waves, with seawater levels rising about six feet.
New Zealand’s civil defense and emergency management issued a warning for people living close to the coast to move inland, to higher ground.
The earthquake struck about 50 miles north of the town of Christchurch. Elliot Fim, a regional official, said in a telephone interview that there were no reports of damage, injuries or fatalities there. The fire department was dealing with a large number of emergency calls seeking assistance.
New Zealand’s North Island and the northern part of New Zealand’s South Island are on the Pacific plate, which is moving west, while the Australian plate is largely moving north. “This is the zone where the Pacific plate goes underneath the Australian plate,” Mr. Jaksa said, adding that the shift had caused a change in the seafloor that resulted in tsunami waves.
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