Two people have died after last night’s earthquake in New Zealand, and residents were evacuated overnight due to the threat of a consequential tsunami. 

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury – around 90km north of Christchurch – and effects were felt reportedly felt as far as Wellington

New Zealand‘s Civil Defence issued a tsunami warning urging residents to move to higher ground, and all emergency sirens in the affected areas were put on. 

Thousands evacuated, due to the threat of violent waves on the east coast of the North, South and Chatham Islands. Some reports state that around 20,000 people evacuated:

Power and phone lines were down in many areas across the country, plus NZ‘s emergency number 111 was temporarily knocked out by the quake.

The earthquake hit just after midnight (local time, approximately 10pm AEDT), and residents were urged to evac in the early hours of the morning. 

Civil Defence downgraded the tsunami threat just after 6am this morning, stating that there was still threat of destructive waves up to 5m on the north east coast of the South Island.

It has been urged that residents in the areas marked green do not move towards the beach, do not go swimming and do not go sightseeing. 

New Zealand sits on something called the ‘Ring of Fire’, a half-circle of seismic faults under the Pacific Ocean. Japan, Chile, and Argentina are all located on the ‘Ring of Fire‘:

Prime Minister John Key confirmed to reporters in Wellington that two people had been killed, but confirmation of the death toll was still being confirmed:

“We don’t have any indications at the moment to believe it will rise, but we can’t rule that out.”

New Zealand Herald reported that one person suffered a heart attack, and the other was killed in a historic homestead in Kaikoura.

We will continue to publish updates on this story as more information arises. 

Source: ABC NZ Herald.

Photo: Twitter / QRZNow.