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Tsunami but no damage after powerful 7.1 quake jolts NZ

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Wellington, Sep 1 (AFP) The east coast of New Zealand washit by a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake today, generating asmall tsunami, but officials said there was no significantdamage or injuries. A swarm of aftershocks, several of nearly 6.0 magnitude,rocked the region for many hours after the initial jolt ascoastal residents made their way to high ground by torchlight. But less than three hours later they were advised theycould return home after a 30-centimetre (one foot) tsunami wasdetected. "The greatest wave height has already occurred, furtherwaves are anticipated to be up to 20 centimetres," the CivilDefence organisation, which is responsible for nationalemergency management, said. "Areas under ‘marine and beach threat’ can expectunusually strong currents and unpredictable water flows nearthe shore. This means a threat to beach, harbour, estuary andsmall boat activities." However, despite the power of the temblor, East CoastCivil Defence information officer Sheridan Gundry told RadioNew Zealand the impact was minimal. "We haven’t heard any reports of injuries or damage atall," she said. "There was power out in a few places but we’ve been letoff pretty lightly as far as damage goes." The tsunami warning covered the East Coast of the NorthIsland and the upper South Island. The shallow tremor, off the coast of New Zealand, wasestimated at a depth of around 30 kilometres, according to theUS Geological Survey. It struck at 4:37am (2107 IST) and was centred 167kilometres from the nearest main town, Gisborne, which has apopulation of around 45,000. In New Zealand, where earthquakes are common, CivilDefence regularly holds practice drills for coastal residentsso they know how to react in an emergency. Pat Seymour, a local council politician in the Gisbornearea, told the New Zealand Herald the earthquake was "quitevigorous". "It was enough to make me stand in the doorway," she said,recalling what she had been taught. In Te Araroa, nearly the entire population of 600 lefttheir homes for higher ground according to local Iain Fraser. "It was pretty severe shaking for a couple of minutes.Then a couple of very light tremors after that," he said. "I’m actually 1,000 metres from the ocean but I’m up offsea level. "I’m looking like the only one left in town at themoment." In nearby Tokomaru Bay, Marlene Kipa heard the civildefence warning sirens and her mind went to other disasters. "That did cross my mind — the Christchurch earthquake –I wondered how they feel." In February 2011, a 6.3 earthquake left 185 people dead inthe South Island city of Christhurch. (AFP)ASK

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