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A shallow, powerful earthquake struck off the northeastern coast of New Zealand, prompting a tsunami warning that was later withdrawn.

Residents along the coast were earlier on Friday ordered to rush for higher ground, but hours later were told they could return to their homes.

“There is no longer a tsunami threat from this earthquake,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement.

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The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake hit 180km (111 miles) northeast of the city of Gisborne at 2:27am on Friday (13:27 GMT Thursday).

“Anyone near the coast who felt a LONG or STRONG quake should MOVE IMMEDIATELY to the nearest high ground, or as far inland as you can,” the National Emergency Management Agency said in a tweet.

The USGS initially pegged the magnitude of the earthquake at 7.3, then revised it down to 6.9. It said the quake occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 10km (6 miles).

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

Residents of Gisborne reported light to moderate shaking. There were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties.

“Based on the preliminary earthquake parameters, hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300km of the earthquake epicentre,” the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The New Zealand government’s seismic monitor GeoNet pegged the earthquake at a magnitude of 7.2 with a depth of 94km (58 miles).

More than 60,000 people reported feeling the earthquake on GeoNet’s website, with 282 people describing the shaking as “severe” and 75 saying it was “extreme”. Most others described it as light. Aftershocks were still being recorded in the area.

“Tsunami activity will continue for several hours and the threat must be regarded as real until this warning is cancelled,” the National Emergency Management Agency warned.

There was no tsunami threat to the capital Wellington and other regions, but civil defence authorities asked residents across the country to stay away from beaches and marine areas as there could be strong and unusual currents.

“Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast who would have felt the full force of that earthquake,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern posted on Instagram.