(CMR) Thousands of people in New Zealand coastal areas evacuated to higher grounds on Friday after the country was hit by at least three powerful earthquakes Thursday night and Friday morning, including an 8.1 quake that hit some 620 miles northeast of the country.
Two earlier quakes registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3.
There were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties; however, there were reportedly sightings of high waves prompting a tsunami warning. Hawaii was also placed on tsunami watch.
The quakes triggered warning systems and caused traffic jams and chaos in New Zealand as people scrambled to get to higher ground.
New Zealand's National Emergency Management Agency tweeted, “People near coast from the BAY OF ISLANDS to WHANGAREI, from MATATA to TOLAGA BAY, and GREAT BARRIER ISLAND must MOVE IMMEDIATELY to nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible.”
The US Tsunami Warning System also cautioned the quake could cause tsunami waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet) in Vanuatu and up to 1 meter (3 feet) in Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, and as far away as Mexico and Peru.