Whānau on the East Coast, Chatham Islands, Coromandel and Banks Peninsula are asked to prepare for potential tsunami waves after an 8.3 earthquake hit off Chile’s coast at 11.30am (NZT).

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Residents in these areas are advised to stay out of the water and off the beaches and wharves from tonight on.

The first tsunami waves or tidal surges may (if they come) arrive from 11pm onwards.

A tsunami warning for the district’s coastline was issued at midday today and the Gisborne Civil Defence Emergency Management centre activated soon afterwards.

4m (15 foot) waves began hitting other parts of Chile’s coast 90 minutes after the initial quake struck and after three 6+ aftershocks.

The National Tsunami Warning Center has issued preliminary warnings that tsunami waves threaten many islands in the south pacific—primarily French Polynesia—and just about every country with a Pacific shore.

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Gisborne Civil Defence Emergency Manager Louise Bennett advises people to stay out of the sea, rivers and estuaries and not to go sightseeing. Boat-owners are also advised to check and secure their vessels’ moorings.

All civil defence area controllers and police staff in the district have been notified. Updates were provided through social media and the Gisborne District Council website.

An increased wave height of between 30cm to 40cm is expected to reach East Cape just after midnight tonight. This may change. The Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management is updating us hourly,” Mrs Bennett says.

“Strong currents and unusual tidal action is expected over the coming days. These present a risk to people in or near the water at river mouths, marinas, jetties and around rocks and wharves.

“We have a 12-hour lead-in for this and have put our tsunami plan into action. We advise residents to be aware that the largest expected wave is not always the first to arrive. Waves can continue for several hours and often can get larger during this time.”

Residents are asked to follow instructions from Civil Defence and listen to local radio and National Radio for updates.

“Please share this information with family, neighbours and friends.”

The warning stays in place until further advised.