A tsunami hit two hours after
an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale rocked New Zealand’s South
Island on Sunday.

The US Geological Survey said the quake hit just after midnight, around 95 km
from Christchurch, media reported.

Officials who have warned the residents to head inland or for higher ground
along the coast, said the first waves may not be the largest, with tsunami
activity possible for several hours.

A gauge at Kaikoura, 181 km north of Christchurch, measured a wave of two
metres, according to media reports.

Smaller waves are said to be arriving in Wellington and other areas, the
reports said.

Residents in the Chatham Islands, an archipelago 680 km south-east of the
mainland, were also being warned by the civil defence authorities that a wave
would hit imminently.

Thousands of people have already evacuated their homes, Radio New Zealand
reported.

New Zealand lies on the notorious Ring of Fire, the line of frequent quakes and
volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.

Christchurch is still recovering from the 2011 earthquake that killed 185
people and destroyed the city centre.

According to the Herald newspaper, the tremor was felt all the way to
Wellington, where sirens sounded and people fled buildings into the streets,
some of them crying.

Early reports suggest some houses in Cheviot town, near the epicentre, have
been damaged.

But contrary to reports by the US Geological Survey, New Zealand’s GeoNet
suggests the earthquake may have been a 7.5 magnitude tremor.

A resident of Christchurch said the tremor lasted a “long” time

On Twitter, Hayley Colgan described it as “the most terrifying earthquake
I think I’ve felt in my 23 years in New Zealand”.