3 massive earthquakes strike near New Zealand; tsunami warnings issued

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A map of the first large earthquake that struck New Zealand with a magnitude of 7.3. (US Geological Survey)

(NEXSTAR) – Three massive earthquakes have struck off the coast of mainland New Zealand, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, spurring four separate tsunami warnings. The first warning was revoked.

The first earthquake, of 7.3 magnitude, hit at 1:27 pm UTC, 94 miles from the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, according to the Geological Survey. The earthquake shook at a depth of 20.8 km.

The second, slightly more powerful quake struck at 5:41 pm UTC, with a magnitude of 7.4 and a depth of 55.6 km. It hit near the Kermadec Islands off mainland New Zealand.

A third earthquake, of 8.1 magnitude, struck at 7:28 pm UTC in the middle of the ocean near the Kermadec Islands, spurring a tsunami warning for all of Samoa, as well as the east coast of the North Island from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, and the Great Barrier Island.

“People near the coast in the following areas must move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible. DO NOT STAY AT HOME,” NEMA said on Twitter.

“The earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible.”

There was no tsunami threat to other areas of New Zealand, though some regions on the coasts were expected to experience “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges near the shore,” NEMA said.

No injuries have been reported from the first two earthquakes.

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz told TV New Zealand, “I’ve heard reports of little bits of damage, nothing major at this stage.”

In response to the first earthquake, New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency issued a tsunami warning, which it later revoked.

It issued a second tsunami warning after the second quake for the East Coast of the North Island from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei.

“We expect New Zealand coastal areas to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore,” the agency wrote.

The agency asked people in or near the sea to move off the water and away from beaches, shore areas, harbors, rivers and estuaries.

No evacuations were called.

A magnitude 6.3 quake hit the city of Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, killing 185 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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