A third huge earthquake has rocked the coast of New Zealand, sparking a fresh tsunami warning with residents told to evacuate immediately.

A huge magnitude 8.0 quake shook the north-east of the country near the Kermadec Islands Region in the early hours of Friday morning.

It comes hours after a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck the same region while another large 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit an area about 900 kilometres away.

Hundreds of residents are chaotically fleeing homes, workplaces and schools to get to higher ground following the latest quake, local media reported.

The evacuation order stands for everyone on the east coast of the North Island from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay and Great Barrier Island.

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Authorities sent out an alert saying the earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, ‘but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible.’

The warning added: ‘People in all other areas who felt a LONG or STRONG earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or lasted longer than a minute, should MOVE IMMEDIATELY to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible.’

The first 7.3 magnitude (M) quake struck shortly before 2:30am local time on Friday 5 March (1:30pm GMT, Thursday 4 March), the second (7.4M) hit at around 6:41am local time and the third (8M) shortly before 08:45am.

Residents have been told to ‘walk, run or cycle if possible to reduce chance of getting stuck in traffic’ and not to return until being given the all-clear by the Civil Defence.

A similar warning was issued after the first earthquake, but it was qucikly withdrawn.

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