The US Geological Survey initially pegged the quake at 7.3, then revised it down to 6.9. It said that the quake occurred at a depth of 10 km (6 miles).
Residents on New Zealand's coast were warned to head to higher ground immediately over the threat of a tsunami after a strong earthquake struck off the country’s North Island and caused severe shaking.
The 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck 147 miles northeast of Gisborne, New Zealand, at 2:27 a.m. Friday (8:27 a.m. EST), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“People near the coast from CAPE RUNAWAY to TOLAGA BAY should MOVE IMMEDIATELY to the nearest high ground, out of tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible. Do not return until an official all-clear message is given by Civil Defence," New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency tweeted.
The agency issued a tsunami warning and said coastal inundation was expected on the east coast of the North Island from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay. It said strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges near the shore are expected on all other coastal areas of the North Island, the Great Barrier Island, South Island, Stewart Island and Chatham Islands.
The first waves were expected to New Zealand in the areas around East Cape at about 3:34 a.m. New Zealand Standard Time.
The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center earlier had said, "Based on the preliminary earthquake parameters ... hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 KM (186 miles) of the earthquake epicenter."