Powerful quake off north-east New Zealand coast

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Residents of a small community on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island have been told they can return to their homes, after a severe earthquake at sea sparked a tsunami warning.

The 7.1 quake struck 169km (105 miles) north-east of Gisborne on Friday morning local time.

Authorities asked people in the Tolaga Bay area to leave their homes.

Some damage to property has been reported, but no injuries.

The quake caused a tsunami but it has had no noticeable impact, an emergency worker told New Zealand radio.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii tweeted that only a 21cm (8in) wave had been measured.

Local civil defence officials said it was now safe for Gisborne residents to return, but advised them to stay away from beaches, streams and estuaries, saying the tsunami threat had not entirely lifted.

Residents were told to head for high ground or far inland if they felt another strong quake.

The quake occurred at 04:37 local time (16:37 GMT) at a depth of 19km (12 miles), US monitors say, and was followed by a series of large aftershocks.

Residents across North Island said they felt shaking and rattling as the quake struck but there were no immediate reports of serious damage.

In 2011, the city of Christchurch on South Island was devastated by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake that left 185 people dead.

Each year more than 15,000 earthquakes are recorded in New Zealand, but only about 150 are large enough to be felt.