A tsunami alert has been issued for parts of New Zealand with residents on the north coast told to move inland after a massive 7.7-magnitude quake in the South Pacific caused ocean surges.
The magnitude 7.7 quake struck off the coasts of Vanuatu and New Caledonia just after midnight on Thursday local time (1320 GMT).
A tsunami generated by the huge tremor has been confirmed by New Zealand authorities.
‘The first tsunami activity causing these strong currents and surges may reach New Zealand in the areas around North Cape at approximately 04:20am NZDT,’ the country’s National Emergency Management Agency warned a tweet.
‘This may be later and the first tsunami activity may not be the most significant.’
The authorities also released a map showing the affected areas while warning residents along its far northern coast to move away from beaches and other waterfront areas due to expected ocean surges.
‘Strong currents and surges can injure and drown people. People in or near the sea in these areas should move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, rivers and estuaries,’ the officials said.
The powerful quake was centred at a depth of six miles southeast of the Loyalty Islands, about 415 kilometres (258 miles) east of Vao in New Caledonia, according to the US Geological Survey.
The NWS Pacific Tsunami Warning Center earlier said that hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake were expected to occur within three hours following the tremor.
Smaller waves were forecast for other nations in the region including Australia, the Cook Islands and American Samoa.
The quake was not expected to cause significant damage or fatalities on land.
The US Tsunami Warning Center issued tsunami watches for New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu and other Pacific islands.