Continued caution urged for NZ coast
New Zealand Civil Defence authorities have cancelled the tsunami alert issued following a large earthquake in the Pacific this morning.
The warning was issued after an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale hit near the islands of Samoa, sparking a tsunami which killed dozens of people, including at least one New Zealander.
Many houses were wiped out and the death toll continues to rise.
While waves resulting from the quake were recorded in coastal parts of New Zealand this morning and this afternoon, they weren't significant enough to cause damage.
The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said wave activity was expected to continue around New Zealand on a diminishing level into the evening.
There was still a likelihood of strong currents in coastal areas, but beach areas were now considered safe.
Local authorities reported being generally pleased with the response this morning to the tsunami warning, despite some people ignoring advice.
That included surfers heading out to catch "the wave" at Makorori beach near Gisborne.
The Gisborne Herald reported that there was some initial confusion in the area as to how serious the threat was as the situation was being dramatised on television while being talked down by local authorities.
There was nevertheless a significant flow of people right along the East Coast heading to higher ground to either get out of harm's way or get a view of the ocean.
Far North District Council spokeswoman Alison Lees told NZPA that emergency response plans for coastal communities had been set up over the past year and the urgent response to today's warning was pleasing.
She said locals needed little encouragement from Civil Defence representatives to vacate their low-lying homes as most did so on their own accord after seeing or hearing media reports.
Me Lees said there was a "barely detectable" increase in wave activity from about 10.30am.
Waikato Civil Defence chairman Peter Lee said sirens were used at various harbours to alert people to the risk and emergency plans were generally well activated.
In the Bay of Plenty the TrustPower TECT rescue helicopter flew along the coast from Waihi Beach to Otamarakau with occupants using a load hailer system to urge residents to evacuate.
Emergency response plans were enacted right down to the bottom of the South Island.
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Blankets, clothing and other aid items have been sent to Samoa on an Air New Zealand passenger jet to assist those who lost possessions in today's tsunami.
Air NZ airline operations general manager David Morgan said the 777-200 ER plane departed this afternoon with several hundred blankets, over 1000 t-shirts and basic amenity packs with items like toothbrushes and tooth paste from the airline's stores.
"While these may seem small items, they will be greatly appreciated by those who have been left with nothing or little in the wake of the tsunami..." Mr Morgan said.
He said reports were coming in of people turning up at the airport in Apia wearing only pyjamas.
Air NZ was liaising with the New Zealand and Samoan governments and was ramping up its service between Auckland and Samoa tomorrow with a Boeing 777-200ER replacing a 767 to provide an additional 85 seats and extra cargo space.
There have been over 50 confirmed deaths in the Samoa islands from the tsunami, including a New Zealander, and there have also been reports of deaths in Tonga.