New Zealand's Powerful Earthquake & Tsunami Threatened Widespread Damage

A powerful earthquake hit New Zealand as the early morning hours of Monday approached in the Pacific Ocean. The initial quake, while powerful on its own, also spurred threatening tsunami waves, which reportedly continued to rock the island nation for several hours after the earthquake. New Zealand's location in the Pacific Ocean makes it particularly vulnerable to seismic activity, but the damage from this weekend's incidents seemed relatively minor at first, according to the BBC.

News of the earthquake and tsunami was confirmed by the Associated Press (AP) at about 2:10 a.m. on Monday morning in New Zealand, or just after 8 a.m. on Sunday in EST. The quake reportedly hit near the city of Christchurch, on the northeastern coast of New Zealand's South Island. It registered a 7.8-magnitude, but no major damage had been immediately reported. According to the AP, the effects of the quake were felt as far away as Wellington, a city on the southern coast of the country's North Island, about 120 miles from Christchurch. Shortly after the earthquake struck, officials in New Zealand issued tsunami warnings, as CNN has reported, urging residents of the New Zealand coast to seek shelter further inland and on higher ground.

With all eyes on Christchurch, the city closest to the quake's reported epicenter, Sunday's incident seemed reminiscent of a 2011 earthquake that rattled the city. In February of that year, a devastating earthquake killed more than 180 people and leveled infrastructure and homes throughout the city. Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has spent the last several years rebuilding from that quake and a series of others. According to one resident, thousands of quakes have battered the city since 2011 and many residents have moved elsewhere as a result.

In addition to the tsunami waves, which were predicted to last for several hours after the quake, at least three aftershocks struck near the original earthquake. The aftershock tremors measured as high as 6.2-magnitude, and the initial tsunami waves topped 2.5 meters high.

Fortunately, images that circulated online shortly after the early-morning reports showed only relatively minor damage to buildings and groceries spilled onto the floor of supermarkets. Still, the threat of more serious damage loomed, depending on the strength of any aftershock tremors and tsunami waves to come. Such activity is somewhat expected for an island nation on the Pacific Ocean's notorious Ring of Fire, but it no doubt wreaks havoc on a city and its residents over time.