A powerful magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck on Friday in the ocean off New Zealand, prompting thousands of people to evacuate and triggering tsunami warnings across the South Pacific.
The quake was the largest in a series of tremors that hit the region over several hours, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3.
While the quakes triggered warning systems and caused traffic jams and some chaos in New Zealand as people scrambled to get to higher ground, they did not appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure.
That’s because of the remoteness of where they hit. The largest struck about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of New Zealand.
One of the earlier quakes hit much closer to New Zealand and awoke many people during the night as they felt a long, rumbling shaking.
“Hope everyone is ok out there,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrote on Facebook.After the largest quake, civil defense authorities in New Zealand told people in certain areas on the East Coast of the North Island that they should move immediately to higher ground and not stay in their homes. They said a damaging tsunami was possible. SOVEREIGNPH