Earthquake: Tsunamis hit, warnings downgraded
The tsunami warning has been dialled back to a "marine and beach threat" for stretches of coast from Wellington to Banks Peninsula, following a massive 7.5-magnitude earthquake on Monday morning.
According to Civil Defence, the treat means surges, strong currents and es and unpredictable water flows can still be expected in the red zone.
All other areas have been cleared.
* See your evacuation area maps here: Canterbury Tasman district Wellington Napier Gisborne Auckland
* Christchurch evacuation centres opened at Linwood, Mairehau and Akaroa.
* Sirens also sound in Wellington in Petone and Eastbourne
* Cancelled: Beach and land threat issued for Gisborne-East Coast, Muriwai and Gisborne to Hicks Bay has been taken down
* State of emergency in Dunedin cancelled, evacuated low-lying communities can return to their homes
Earlier warnings over tsunamis were downgraded in the early morning, and people evacuated from many areas have been allowed to return to their homes.
The huge quake hit near Hanmer Springs, North Canterbury, shortly after midnight Monday, sparking further widespread tremors and tsunami warnings initially covering the east coasts of both islands.
While the warnings had been downgraded, the coast and beach threat remained, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) said. People should stay clear of beaches and the coast.
While the first tsunami waves had arrived it was too early to know what damage or casualties there may have been, it said.
Further waves should be expected, it said.
Earlier, MCDEM warned people on the east coast (including the Chatham Islands) close to the epicentre that they could expect waves of up to 5 metres.
People on the east coast (including the Chatham Islands) close to the epicentre can expect waves of 3-5 metres. Move to high ground #eqnz— MCDEM (@NZcivildefence) November 13, 2016
Early on Monday morning sirens had gone off along the Canterbury coast as well as Petone and Eastbourne in Wellington, and people moved to high ground.
People heading up Mt Victoria in Wellington city struck huge traffic jams.
Miramar resident Ana Harris left her home with her two babies after 2am to head to higher ground and said she had been in her car near the summit for nearly two hours.
Motorists had been unable to move or turn around until they reached the top.
She said some tempers had flared and people abandoned their cars, walking uphill on foot.
"We've been sitting here for hours, just waiting."
TSUNAMI ACTIVITY CONTINUING
MCDEM said tsunami activity would continue "for several hours".
People in coastal areas should stay out of the water (sea, rivers and estuaries), stay off beaches and shore areas, alert all friends and family of the warning, not go sightseeing, follow media for updates, and follow instructions of local civil defence authorities.
Several evacuation centres had been set up in the Waimakariri district, north of Christchurch.
Welfare centres had been set up at the Woodend Community Centre, Rangiora Baptist Church, Oxford School Hall, and the Kaiapoi Rugby Club.
Linwood College has been set up as a evacuation point for people who have left their home in Christchurch.
TSUNAMI RISK ZONES
In Wellington the red zone for tsunamis was the immediate foreshore from Petone to Eastbourne, RNZ reported.
There was no immediate threat to those inland.
Wellington Region Emergency Management Office said the red zone evacuation was now region-wide but in Kapiti the red zone was nearly all beach and estuary.
A state of emergency which had been in place in Dunedin had now been cancelled, and people in low lying areas had been allowed to return to their homes.
There was no longer a tsunami beach and land threat in Gisborne East Coast. Authorities said people who moved out of their homes in the wake of a tsunami threat earlier could return home.
People living on low-lying ground within one kilometre of the Christchurch coastline had earlier been advised to evacuate inland or to higher ground as a precaution.
Tsunami sirens activated at 2.14am in Christchurch's coastal suburbs, more than an hour after the first tsunami warnings were issued by Civil Defence.
The sirens, located from Brooklands to Taylors Mistake, were meant to sound for about 10 minutes to alert residents they could need to evacuate.
A significant amount of traffic could be seen heading away from New Brighton and other coastal suburbs towards central Christchurch and the Port Hills.
Early on Monday morning police were driving around the New Brighton area with flashing lights on.
The Timaru Port area was closed off and no access was permitted. The following Timaru roads were closed: Port Loop Road (SH1), Lower Heaton Street east of Stafford Street, Redruth Street and Shaw Street.
The tsunami warning for Waikato and Bay of Plenty had also been lowered to a marine and beach threat, but Civil Defence are warning that could change.
For now, though, residents can return home but are being asked to stay off the beaches and away from waterways.
More to come.