Lower East Coast 'bumper to bumper' as they evacuate

updated By Te Ao - Māori News

Awakeri School kids and staff as they head to higher ground for safety.

The lower East Coast of the North Island was evacuated this morning following a series of earthquakes that woke the country.

A long line of cars can be seen out in Ōhope as residents cue up in line to get to higher ground. 

In Whakatāne, people have been driving on the footpath of Kopeopeo Road to pass the stretch of cars already lined up.

Tumeke FM announcer from Tūhoe, Ani Blacks, says the radio station in Whakatāne went live on air and on social media straight away to alert the community to head to higher ground.

"Ahakoa wēnā o ngā āhuatanga i whakaohorere i a tātou (although these are scary times), this is the time to come together," says Black.

"Whether we're whānau or stranger, ki te whakakotahi i a tātou ki te whakahaumaru i a tātou (let's come together to help each other to be safe."

All schools in Whakatāne were shut down and young and old were forced to wait in traffic or move by foot to head out of town. All schools were shutdown and whānau headed to Mokoroa Bush Scenic Reserve or Kohi Point Scenic Reserve to get to higher ground.

Others were forced to head inland to Taneatua and some were even asked by police to park their cars and walk as the township came to a standstill with cars jamming up the roads heading out of town.

Meanwhile in Tokomaru Bay, this video shows fast approaching waves hitting the shore as a local resident films the action from higher ground.