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Severe Earthquake Triggers Tsunami Off New Zealand's Coast

Debris from fallen concrete off buildings lies on the sidewalk in Wellington, after a powerful earthquake rocked New Zealand. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake had a 7.8 magnitude.

A strong earthquake hit along the east coast of New Zealand's South Island Sunday, with a 7.8 magnitude, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake caused power outages, damaged buildings — and generated a tsunami. Emergency officials are urging people to get to high ground.

"The tsunami threat is for the east coast of all New Zealand (including Christchurch, Wellington and the Chatham islands)," the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said Sunday, urging residents to be wary of aftershocks and unpredictable high waves.

"There is a threat of land inundation for the East Coast of New Zealand from Southland to the East Cape," the agency said, referring to a roughly 1,000 mile-wide area.

People in nearly 90 cities reported feeling the quake, according to the USGS. Chimneys toppled, and damage was reported more than 100 miles from the epicenter.

"The November 13th M 7.8 earthquake is the largest event in the region since an M 7.3 earthquake 100 km to the northwest in June 1929," the USGS says.

The quake struck nearly 60 miles north of New Zealand's city of Christchurch, at a depth of around 25 miles.

The powerful quake comes after Christchurch marked the five-year anniversary of a devastating earthquake that hit the city in February of 2011.

From the USGS:

"While commonly plotted as points on maps, earthquakes of this size are more appropriately described as slip over a larger fault area. Reverse-faulting events of the size of the November 13, 2016 earthquake are typically about 120x50 km (length x width). Within 2 hours of the M 7.8 mainshock, 9 aftershocks had occurred, ranging in size from M 4.9 to M 6.2 and extending from the region of the mainshock epicenter to about 150 km to the northeast."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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