Even more powerful earthquake strikes New Zealand six hours after first

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A second powerful earthquake has struck New Zealand, the second in six hours.

The 7.4 magnitude hit near the Kermadec Islands, hours after a 7.3 magnitude tremor sparked a tsunami warning which has since passed.

The country's Civil Defence body, the National Emergency Management Agency, tweeted: "We have issued a NATIONAL ADVISORY: TSUNAMI ACTIVITY following the magnitude 7.4 earthquake near KERMADEC ISLANDS NEW ZEALAND.

"We expect New Zealand coastal areas to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore.

"People in or near the sea in the following areas should move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, rivers and estuaries."

The body listed a number of areas which were under threat including the East Coast of the North Island from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei.

It came hours after a 7.3 earthquake had sparked a tsunami warning. People were told to leave coastal areas and head to higher ground if it was possible.

The closest major city to the epicentre of the first tremor is Gisborne, with a population of about 35,500. People near the coast from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay were told to evacuate.

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After the second quake Dr Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at Imperial College London, tweeted: "Just a few hours after the M7.3 earthquake off the N. island of New Zealand earlier, now there is a M7.4 quake 900 km to the north.

"Did the M7.3 trigger the M7.4? Maybe, but unlikely & hard to tell. Both though are related to subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the Aus plate.

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"*If* the M7.3 NZ quake did increase the stress on the fault that ruptured to the north during the M7.4 event, then the amount of stress would have been pretty tiny and it hints that the M7.4 fault was already very close to failure anyway."

A tsunami alert was issued for the Kermadec Islands but it has since passed.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern posted on Instagram after the first tremor: "Hope everyone is ok out there."

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