Magnitude 8.1 earthquake hit New Zealand area

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Thousands of people in New Zealand were forced to evacuate after a big earthquake, magnitude 8.1, one of the biggest in modern history, struck about 620 miles off the coast of New Zealand in remote ocean, at the intersection of the Pacific and Australia tectonic plates, near the Kermadec Islands, early Friday. “Hope everyone is ok out there,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrote on Facebook during the night. Civil defense authorities in New Zealand told people in some coastal areas to immediately get to higher ground. They said a damaging tsunami was possible, and waves could reach up to 10 feet. Following evacuation orders and warnings to move away from the coast, thousands of New Zealanders fled to higher ground, walking, driving and riding bicycles.The U.S.

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Tsunami Warning System also cautioned the quake could cause tsunami waves of up to 10 feet in Vanuatu and up to 3 feet in Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia and as far away as Mexico and Peru. On Friday afternoon, New Zealand downgraded its warning from a “land and marine threat” to “beach and marine threat,” meaning all residents who evacuated can now return to their homes. A tsunami watch that had been issued for the state of Hawaii was canceled, with forecasters saying that the islands no longer faced a threat.