WATCH: People flee to higher ground, boats rush to safer waters after New Zealand says tsunami evacuation ‘overrides’ Covid alert

Coastal areas of New Zealand were under evacuation orders for several hours after a series of powerful earthquakes, sending residents fleeing to safety as officials said the emergency overrode the country’s Covid-19 restrictions.

READ MORE: Hawaii & Samoa under TSUNAMI WATCH after 8.1 earthquake north of New Zealand

Residents were instructed to evacuate some coastal areas “immediately” in the wake of a series of Friday morning’s quakes – three of them registering at more than 7.0 in magnitude – with the National Emergency Management Agency stating the order takes precedence over “the current Covid-19 alert level requirements” and warning of a “land and marine tsunami threat.”

Sirens were heard blaring as people fled to safety, while boats were seen racing both to and from shore, some seeking refuge in calmer waters further out at sea.

The country’s northern coast was placed under both a land and marine tsunami alert, where waves were expected to reach up to 3 meters high and make their way inland, while much of the rest of the island faces a lower “beach and marine” threat level, according to a map issued by NEMA.

American meteorologist Brian Lada also noted that surveillance buoys around the Pacific were in tsunami mode after picking up unusual ocean currents. 

After several hours under the advisories, NEMA downgraded the risk level for all of New Zealand to “beach and marine threat,” noting that the largest waves had passed and that those who evacuated could return home. It warned , however, that “there is still danger to swimmers, surfers, people fishing and anyone in or near the water close to shore,” urging residents to keep away from coastal areas.

The larger 8.1 magnitude quake also triggered temporary tsunami advisories and evacuation orders in coastal regions on all of Hawaii’s islands, as well as in parts of American Samoa, where residents were seen in footage rushing to higher ground. Both alerts have since been canceled, however, according to the National Weather Service.

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