Two dead as New Zealand is rocked by massive 6.3 magnitude aftershock and tsunami after being struck by 7.8 earthquake

TWO people have died after New Zealand was hit by a two-metre (6ft 5in) tall tsunami wave and a series of powerful aftershocks yesterday following a severe 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed on Sunday evening (GMT) that two people had lost their lives and and several more have been badly injured.


Speaking nearly seven hours after the earthquake first hit, the PM said "we cannot rule out" that the number of fatalities may continue to rise.

He said: "At this point we are unable to give precise details of what caused those fatalities."

The leader added that communication problems have been making it difficult to get information from the affected areas of the South Island.

US experts say it hit the city of Christchurch in the country's South Island which is still recovering from a deadly 6.3 magnitude quake five years ago that killed 185 people.

The US Geological Survey said the epicentre was some 60 miles (100km) from the city and posted maps showing the areas affected by the shock.

The epicentre was located some 10 miles north-east (15km) of Culverden in South Island and some 10 miles below the Earth's surface.

It is understood to have struck just after midnight local time, 11.02 GMT on Sunday, with the first tsunami wave hitting the coast some two hours later.

The NZ Ministry for Civil Defence and Emergency Management has said the wave, which landed on South Island, is the first of several waves expected in the coming hours.

They also warned that waves could reach a height of between three and five metres (10-16ft) in some places.

In a statement they said: "Early indications are that the quakes originated from the Hope Fault."



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They added: "The first tsunami waves have arrived but it is too early to know what damage or casualties there may have been. Further waves should be expected and may be larger or more dangerous."

One wave measured two metres tall when it landed at Kaikoura, 112 miles (180km) north of Christchurch, according to the Weather Watch website in New Zealand.

They had earlier said that there was no possibility of a tsunami but have since advised residents of South, North and Chatham Islands to move further inland and to higher ground.

They have also warned citizens that the "first first wave may not be the largest. Tsunami activity will continue for several hours."

This evening local reports have suggested there have been three or more aftershocks in the area measuring six in magnitude or higher.

On Monday all scholarship exams were postponed, with the exception of schools not affected by the quake where they will be held as normal.

Many schools were closed on Monday morning while structural engineers assessed if they'd suffered any damage before allowing pupils back in.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key cancelled a trip to Argentina on Monday after the powerful 7.8 earthquake rocked his South Pacific nation, but still hopes to attend an APEC summit in Peru.

Key was scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires on Tuesday on a trade mission but said he wanted to stay at home until the scale of the quake's destruction was known.

"The situation is still unfolding and we don't yet know the full extent of the damage," said the New Zealand leader, who has confirmed at least two quake-related deaths.

"I believe it is better that I remain in New Zealand in the coming days to offer my assistance and support until we have a better understanding of the event's full impact."

It was reported that 45 aftershocks were felt following the quake.

Christchurch residents took to social media to post images and videos of the aftermath.

One resident told the press: "We were asleep and woken to the house shaking, it kept going and going and felt like it was going to build up."

The New Zealand Herald said the quake was felt some 200 miles (320km) away on North Island in the country's capital city of Wellington.

They reported that evacuation sirens were heard blaring, people seen fleeing buildings and crying in the streets.

Cars were seen stuck in traffic as families tried to make their way out of Wellington and to higher ground.

The Pakistan cricket team is safe and well after being shaken awake by the quake which struck New Zealand.

Pakistan team spokesman Shahid Aslam said the earthquake, which struck shortly after midnight, was "scary" but players were "fine."

They will leave on schedule for Christchurch where the test against New Zealand begins on Thursday.

Christchurch is close to the epicenter of the earthquake but Aslam said the team, currently in Nelson, is "flying to Christchurch as planned. All is good, we are all safe."

He said the team would follow any further advice from Cricket New Zealand.

Pakistan will go into the test without match preparation after a three day warm-up game was rained out without a ball being bowled.

There were reports of damaged buildings in the town of Cheviot in South Island, located some 50 miles (80km) nearer to the epicentre than Christchurch.

The 2011 disaster killed 185 people and destroyed much of the city centre's historic buildings.

It measured 6.3 on the Richter scale but today's came in at 7.8 – the equal largest in the country's history.

In September a 7.1 magnitude quake struck off the coast of Gisborne in North Island which caused a tsunami wave to hit the country's eastern coast.

It caused some damage to properties but no loss of life or injuries.

New Zealand lies on the notorious Ring of Fire – a collection of fault lines circling the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

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