Kermadecs quake: Tsunami fears across the Pacific

Pacific Island authorities are being advised to keep an eye out for possible tsunami waves, following a series of quakes on Friday morning.

A magnitude 7.1 struck off the coast of New Zealand at 2:37am, prompting a short-lived warning for New Zealand; but larger quakes have since struck further north, near the Kermadec Islands, measuring up to magnitude 8.

Warnings of three-metre waves were issued for the Kermadecs, and between one and three metres for French Polynesia and Vanuatu.

At this stage no formal 'warnings' have been issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), operated by the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Local authorities have put in warnings for the Cook Islands.

A 'watch' was in place for Hawaii, meaning a "distant tsunami" was possible, and people should "stay tuned" and "be prepared to act". It was later cancelled, ABC News reported.

An advisory was issues for American Samoa at 9:24am, the next level up, but later cancelled.

"There is a threat to American Samoa of sea level fluctuations and strong ocean currents that could be a hazard along beaches, in harbors and in coastal waters," the PTWC said. The first effects are expected to be felt around 10:19am. 

The first effects were expected to be felt in New Zealand around 10:09am in Gisborne, and the rest of the country over the following couple of hours. 

Other islands have been notified of a potential 'threat'.

The warnings come in three levels:

  • Watch: "issued when a tsunami may later impact"
  • Advisory: "issued when a tsunami with the potential to generate strong currents or waves dangerous to those in or very near the water is imminent, expected, or occurring. The threat may continue for several hours after initial arrival, but significant inundation is not expected."
  • Warning: "issued when a tsunami with the potential to generate widespread inundation is imminent, expected, or occurring. Warnings alert the public that dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents is possible and may continue for several hours after initial arrival".

At this stage, tsunami waves of up to 1m are possible in Vanuata and New Caledonia, the PTWC said. Other 'threats' had been cancelled.

Potential threats to the US and Canadian west coast, including California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, as well as the west coast of South America, were later deemed negligible.

No tsunami is expected in Guam.