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1st Wave of Tsunami Reaches New Zealand

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The first wave of a tsunami, created by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile, reached the Chatham Islands of New Zealand on Sunday.

Wave activity was confirmed on the coastal tsunami gauge at the Chatham Islands at 7:35 AM New Zealand local time (18:35 GMT Saturday), New Zealand's Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) announced.

At this stage, the change in sea level measured is approximately 0.2 meters.

MCDEM said that this was the first arrival and larger waves may follow over a period of several hours. The situation continued to be closely monitored.

New Zealand was on tsunami alert after a massive earthquake struck Chile.

A tsunami warning has been issued for the entire Pacific.

Already, some areas of New Zealand's east coast were being evacuated, including low lying parts of the Chatham Islands.

MCDEM said people in all coastal areas should stay away from beaches and out of all waterways.

It was warning of waves of up to three meters high in some areas.

However, strong currents and unusual tidal effects may continue for several hours.

The tsunami warning will remain in effect until a cancellation message is issued.

Auckland Civil Defence Controller Harry O'Rourke said on Sunday the size of the tsunami when it arrives at the Chatham Islands will give a clearer idea of what the rest of New Zealand can expect, Radio New Zealand reported.

At this stage, Civil Defence expects the greatest wave heights will occur between six and 12 hours after the initial arrival times.

Civil Defence believed a threat exists for the entire east coasts of the North and South Islands from Puysegur around to Cape Reinga and extending south to Ahipara.

Some land threat also exists for the Chatham Islands and Banks Peninsula.

The west coasts of both main islands will also be affected with observable sea level changes in parts, it said.

The tsunami alert prompted the Port of Napier in the east coast of New Zealand North Island, to close at 3:00 AM on Sunday.

All ships in port have been escorted out into water of at least 30 meters deep in Hawke's Bay, where they will stay until an all- clear is given.

Three vessels, including a cruise ship which were due in port on Sunday morning, are now waiting off the coast of Napier.

Civil Defence in the North Island eastern coast city of Gisborne was warning residents who live near Midway and Waikanae beaches to leave their properties.

On Banks Peninsula of South Island, a camp ground at Okains Bay was evacuated, and in the Chathams guests at a hotel had been moved to higher ground, Radio New Zealand reported.

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2010)

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