Wellington: An earthquake so hard that it may cause a tsunami hit New Zealand this morning (Monday in this country). The quake at the depth of 16 km measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, which struck 20 km southeast of Hanmer Springs, rocked North Canterbury. In the village near the epicentre, the quake has created a slip, closing the main road. The state highway near Hundalee is damaged.

People from across the country are feeling the aftershocks of the quake.

The authorities have issued a tsunami alert to all coastal residents of the country, as the wave generated a wave hitting the north-eastern tip of the South Island. More waves are expected to hit the eastern edges of the North, South, and Chatham Islands; Petone has heard tsunami sirens already. Road users have been advised extra caution.

People in New Brighton and other coastal suburbs are moving towards central Christchurch and the Port Hills.

The quake affected Christchurch, Wellington, Nelson, Marlborough, Taranaki, Hamilton and Auckland, causing widespread damage of property including that at the ferry port of Petone. Window panes, plaster and masonry have fallen off the buildings onto the streets, amid the ringing of automatic alarm bells, in the central business district (CBD) of the city. Guests were seen in their bathrobes outside hotels near the Civic Square, the roads of which have been closed for regular vehicular traffic by emergency services.

Similar scenes were witnessed on Wakefield St opposite the Wellington City Council offices. People living along the Willis Street in Wellington’s CBD are out in the street after being evacuated from their respective buildings.

Power and telephone connections have been disrupted in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast, New Plymouth, Stratford, Eltham and Hawera. Police are inspecting Marlborough neighbourhoods to take stock of the damage and offer assistance.

Coastal people on low-lying areas have been warned to reach for ground on a higher altitude as fast as possible, as Lyall Bay waters have been displaced by 200 m.

Featured and thumbnail images courtesy: AFP