A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked New Zealand early Monday, damaging buildings and triggering a tsunami which saw people in coastal areas fleeing to higher ground.

The ministry of civil defence, responsible for emergency management in New Zealand, described the tsunami as “an event of life-threatening or national significance”.

The shallow tremor was centered some 90 kilometres (57 miles) north of the South Island city of Christchurch and was felt throughout the country.

Although no injuries were reported, there were reports of widespread damage, with electricity and phone services cut in many areas.

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