Whānau urged to prepare for further tsunami warnings

The North Islands East Coast was shaken by an early morning earthquake. The jolt was felt across much of the North Island forcing hundreds of people to move to higher ground to avoid a possible tsunami.

Locals in the small East Coast settlement of Te Araroa quickly moved to higher ground when the 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the East Cape.

Te Araroa resident Moerangi Taylor-Tihore says, “My coat hanger fell, some windows smashed and my computer in my room broke but the main thing is that we're alive and our community is safe.”

The earthquake struck at around 4:30am close to Te Araroa. It was felt by tens of thousands of people throughout many parts of the North Island.

Kura kaupapa Māori principal Campbell Dewes says, “I would have taken a tsunami 20 to 30 minutes to reach the shore. In that short time, we had to get up and find safety on top of these hills.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of aftershocks continue to plague the East Cape.

But locals say they're preparing themselves for the worst.

“Because of the earthquake, we moved to higher ground. The main thing is to look out for each other so everyone is safe. Families also need to have an emergency kit handy at all times,” says Taylor-Tihore.

“We will meet in the lounge to discuss what to do now with regard to our trip to Gisborne for the kapa haka competition there. The problem is that the school is closed and the students aren't here,” says Dewes.

Geonet says the aftershocks will continue for some time, but it's not known for how long.