(SOURCE) A powerful earthquake rocked New Zealand early Monday local time, rattling buildings and triggering a tsunami that forced coastal residents to flee to higher ground.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-7.8 quake was centered less than 60 miles northeast of Christchurch. Buildings shook in the capital of Wellington, 130 miles from the epicenter.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defense urged coastal residents to move inland immediately.
“The first wave may not be the largest. Waves may continue for several hours,” the agency warned. It urged residents stay out of the water and off beaches and to resist the temptation to go “sightseeing.”
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a Pacific-wide iimpact was not expected and that Hawaii was not threatened.
The quake struck shortly after midnight. New Zealand is 18 hours ahead of the Eastern Time.
“It was massive and really long,” Tamsin Edensor, a mother of two in Christchurch, told Agence France-Presse. “We were asleep and woken to the house shaking, it kept going and going and felt like it was going to build up.”
Marie Black, deputy mayor of New Zealand’s Hurunui District, lives about 40 miles north of Christchurch. She told the New Zealand Herald there was reports of damage throughout the region.
“It was a significant shake,” she said. “I have felt several aftershocks, and it is very unnerving.”
The quake was a terrifying reminder comes less than six years after a magnituded-6.3 temblor struck six miles southeast of Christchurch, killing almost 200 people and destroying infrastructure.
Some damage was reported to buildings as far away as Wellington, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
USGS said the quake, which struck just after midnight local time, emerged from the relatively shallow depth of about six miles. Shallow quakes tend to be felt more broadly than those that are centered well below the earth’s surface.