An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 has struck near Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 2 people and triggering a Tsunami warning for part of the east coast.
The quake struck 57 miles north-northeast of the city just after midnight local time on Monday and shook much of the country.
Two deaths have been reported – one in Kaikoura and one in Mt Lyford.
Earlier, officials said a number of casualties have been reported in the town of Kaikoura, which was hit hard by the disaster.
People who live along the east coast were told to retreat to higher ground as the tsunami warning was issued, but it was later downgraded for most of the country.
Waves as high as 10ft are still possible between Marlborough and Banks Peninsula.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has just given a press conference and provided updates on the emergency response.
He confirmed two people are currently known to have died. He added the Kaikoura area has been the worst hit and with many roads blocked and communication lines down the extent of the damage is not yet known.
He added the death toll could still rise as daylight emerges across New Zealand.
He said: “We don’t have any indications to believe that it will rise but we can’t rule that out. What’s going to happen is that as we get daylight we can go out and do a proper assessment”.
The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management has said despite the tsunami warning level being downgraded, people should continue to stay away from beaches and shore areas and stay up to date with official guidance.
Authorities have urged residents to:
- Stay out of the water (sea, rivers and estuaries, including boating activities)
- Stay off beaches and shore areas
- Do not go sightseeing
- Share this information with family, neighbours and friends
- Listen to the radio and/or TV for updates
- Follow instructions of local civil defense authorities
Concern is growing for earthquake victims in the coastal town of Kaikoura, which has been cut off by the disaster amid reports of a number of casualties there.
Located near the epicenter, it appears to be one of the hardest hit areas, and officials are hoping to get a better understanding of the damage once the sun rises.
Helicopters are being sent to check the area and assist the victims.
One person is reportedly missing after a home for the elderly collapsed, and dozens of residents have taken refuge on a hill due to the tsunami threat.
Many roads are impassable due to large cracks or landslips, and there were reports of power and phone outages.
A Civil Defense official says there are reports a train is stranded north of Kaikoura.
New Zealand’s major airports are open and operating following the earthquake.
They include the airports in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.
Passengers should check with their airline to find out if their flight’s status has changed.