A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck central New Zealand just after midnight, the U.S. Geological Survey said, causing widespread damage and generating a tsunami.
Thousands of people along New Zealand’s east coast fled their homes to head for higher ground as emergency services warned of destructive waves of up to five meters in some areas.
“The first waves have arrived but we know that it is too early to say what the impact has been,” said Sarah Stuart-Black, national controller at the Ministry of Civil Defence.
“Our concern is what is coming. Future waves are coming may be bigger than what has come before.”
St. John Ambulance said it was sending helicopters carrying medical and rescue personnel to near the epicenter of the quake, 91 km north-northeast of Christchurch, where a 6.3 quake in 2011…
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