A 7.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the South Island of New Zealand late Sunday, the US Geological Survey said. The shallow temblor hit just after 11:00 p.m local time, around 90 kilometers from the city of Christchurch.
New Zealand issued a warning for southern coastal areas. "A tsunami is possible," the national civil defence organisation, which is in charge of New Zealand's emergency management, said in a bulletin. "The first wave activity may not be the most significant."
The New Zealand government's GeoNet website said the quake was "felt widely" throughout the country and warned citizens to watch out for aftershocks. Tamsin Edensor, a mother of two in Christchurch, told the AFP news agency the quake lasted a long time.
"We were asleep and woke to the house shaking; it kept going and going and felt like it was going to build up," she said. "We're getting aftershocks at the moment. We're going to stock up on water supplies just in case."
The German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) measured the quake's strength as 7.9 on the Richter scale.
Christchurch was devastated by a 6.3 earthquake in February 2011 that left 185 people dead and more than 10,000 buildings heavily damaged or destroyed. New Zealand is on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, which form part of the so-called "Ring of Fire," and experiences up to 15,000 quakes a year.
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