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The Latest: New Zealand PM to survey earthquake damage

Associated Press Associated Press 14/11/2016
A large fissure runs along Kaikoura Road about two hours north of Christchurch Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, after a major earthquake struck New Zealand's south Island early Monday. The powerful earthquake struck in a mostly rural area close to the city of Christchurch but appeared to be more strongly felt in the capital, Wellington, more than 200 Km (120 miles) away. (AP Photo / Joe Morgan) © The Associated Press A large fissure runs along Kaikoura Road about two hours north of Christchurch Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, after a major earthquake struck New Zealand's south Island early Monday. The powerful earthquake struck in a mostly rural area close to the city of Christchurch but appeared to be more strongly felt in the capital, Wellington, more than 200 Km (120 miles) away. (AP Photo / Joe Morgan)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Latest on a strong earthquake that struck New Zealand (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is traveling to the epicenter of Monday's powerful earthquake to survey the damage. Key is taking a helicopter to the small South Island coastal town of Kaikoura. The town is a popular destination for tourists taking part in whale-watching expeditions.

Police said one person died in Kaikoura and another died in Mt. Lyford, a nearby ski resort. Police say they have also received reports that several people had suffered minor injuries in Kaikoura.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck the South Island early Monday, just after midnight.

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7:25 a.m.

Authorities in New Zealand have downgraded tsunami warnings around the country following a powerful earthquake.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck the South Island early Monday, just after midnight. The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management reported that a tsunami wave struck at about 1:50 a.m. and warned residents living in low-lying areas anywhere along the country's east coast to move to higher ground.

Prime Minister John Key said at a news conference later Monday morning that the tsunami warnings were being downgraded to coastal warnings.

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7:10 a.m.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says at least two people were killed in the powerful earthquake that struck the country.

Key did not provide any further details at a news conference Monday morning in Wellington, the capital.

Authorities said they were not yet declaring a national emergency, saying the regions are coping well.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck early Monday, just after midnight, 214 kilometers (132 miles) south of Wellington, where it collapsed a ferry loading ramp, broke windows and caused items to fall from shelves.

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5:40 a.m.

Authorities in New Zealand's capital are urging people who work in the center of the city to stay home on Monday following a powerful earthquake.

Wellington city officials said some large buildings were showing signs of structural stress and that the quake would like have caused damage to some buildings.

The city's suburban rail network was shut while crews checked tracks, bridges and tunnels.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck early Monday, just after midnight.

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5:30 a.m.

A powerful earthquake that struck New Zealand's South Island has opened up snaking fissures in roads and triggered landslides.

In Wellington, the capital, it collapsed a ferry loading ramp, broke windows and caused items to fall from shelves. It also forced hundreds of tourists onto the streets as hotels were evacuated.

The full extent of the damage from the quake, which struck early Monday, just after midnight, is unlikely to be known before daybreak.

While there were no immediate reports of serious injuries in Wellington or Christchurch, the quake brought back memories of the magnitude-6.3 earthquake that struck Christchurch in 2011, destroying much of the downtown area and killing 185 people. That quake was one of New Zealand's worst disasters, causing an estimated $25 billion in damage.

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2:10 a.m.

New Zealand authorities say a powerful earthquake has generated a tsunami, with the first waves hitting the South Island.

The department of civil defense warned people all along the country's east coast to move to higher ground.

The magnitude 7.8 quake struck just after midnight Sunday near the city of Christchurch. It was at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles).

Some minor damage was reported in the capital, Wellington, over 200 kilometers (120 miles) away. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries in Christchurch.

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