East Cape quake tsunami threat over

The scene in the Bay of Plenty this morning (Ports of Tauranga)
The scene in the Bay of Plenty this morning (Ports of Tauranga)

The tsunami threat caused by Friday morning's quake off the East Cape of the North Island is now over, Civil Defence says.

The 7.1 shake struck at 4:37am, 130 km from Te Araroa . It was followed by more than 50 aftershocks, measuring up to 5.8.

They're expected to continue through the day.

A potential tsunami warning was in place for much of the eastern and northern coasts of the North Island, but Civil Defence says "based on all available data, the greatest tsunami activity has now passed".

"However, coasts may still experience unusual, strong currents and sea level fluctuations lasting for several more hours."

The first tsunami waves arrived on the East Cape at about 6am, measuring 30cm high.

Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black told Paul Henry despite the low height, tsunami waves are different to normal sea currents and shouldn't be underestimated.

"The important thing is people stay away from the water," director Sarah Stuart-Black told Paul Henry.

"They should be going inland or up hills if they're close to that coastline. We understand there have been a number of self-evacuations… we're just urging extreme caution."

That advice still applies, with waters expected to be choppy through much of the day.

"We don't want anybody to be putting themselves in a position where they're not safe," says Ms Stuart-Black.

Residents of low-lying Tologa Bay, north of Gisborne, in particular were urged to evacuate their homes.

Local Phil White says most residents heeded Civil Defence's advice.

"My neighbour was rattling on the window to say he was taking his family out of town to higher ground. The whole of Tologa is a tsunami zone.

"There are some older people in town who aren't leaving. Most have gone to higher ground."

The local Civil Defence chapter is pleased with the community's response on the whole, but frustrated a few people stayed behind.

"Although some people chose not to evacuate, we want to reinforce that the self-evacuating message is given for good reasons," says Tairawhiti Civil Defence Emergency Management controller John Clarke

"If they don't self-evacuate, they are placing emergency services, civil defence personnel at risk if they have to do house by house checks. People put themselves and their families at risk too."

The tsunami threat also saw trains across Auckland grind to a halt, with delays ongoing even after lines were opened.

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The quake follows a 5.7 tremor that shook the same area yesterday. No tsunami warning was issued for that shake.

The only reports so far of damage are power outages in the Gisborne-East Cape region, that are expected to be quickly rectified.

Civil Defence's advice for Friday morning: