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An enormous 7.3 magnitude earthquake has rocked New Zealand, forcing thousands of people to move to high ground over tsunami fears.
Tremors were felt across the country in early hours of Friday, March 5, after substantial quake struck 100km east of Te Araroa on the North Island at 2.27am local time.
It was followed by four aftershock quakes ranging from 5.2 – 3.4, the United States Geographical survey reported.
The country's Civil Defence body, the National Emergency Management Agency, issued an alert urging people living in coastal communities to move to higher ground.
In a Tweet, the NEMA said: "We are assessing whether the M7.3 EAST OF THE NORTH ISLAND NEW ZEALAND earthquake at 2021-03-05 2:27 AM has created a tsunami that could affect New Zealand.
"Anyone near the coast who felt a LONG or STRONG quake should MOVE IMMEDIATELY to the nearest high ground, or as far inland as you can."
Shocked New Zealanders took to Twitter to describe their panic, with several stating the quake woke them up, and others claiming items have fallen from their shelves.
One user who geo-tagged New Zealand said: "Wow, did anyone else feel that? It woke me up!"
A second said: "That was some quake."
While a third, who lives on the South Island, said their "house shook" and heard a "very loud rumble."
The user said: "Well.. had an 7.4 earthquake here in NZ.. was felt down here in the south island of New Zealand, house shook and was a very loud rumble! My heart is very fluttery after that."
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GeoNet reported the quake caused "strong shaking near Te Araroa" on the north east coast of the North island.
VolcanoDiscovery, a tremor tracking website, said the “quake should have been widely felt by almost everyone in the area of the epicentre."
It added that the earthquake is likely to have caused "light to moderate damage," although the country’s government has not reported any destruction at this stage.
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On the website, those in the area have the opportunity to log where they are and any shaking they felt, one user from Auckland, the country’s capital city, reported "light shaking" and "horizontal swiping."
In Stokes valley, Lower Hutt, 564.4km from the epicentre, another said: "Had awoken 1 minute earlier than quake to go toilet, came back to bed then it started, really loud and long strong ground movements. Could tell it was a large quake but far away from our place. It went on for ages!"
According to the New Zealand Herald, people are heading inland and road traffic is heading through Taradale to Dolbel Reserve.
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