Powerful quake hits off New Zealand, prompting evacuations and tsunami warnings

new zealand

A powerful magnitude 8.1 earthquake has struck in the ocean off the coast of New Zealand, prompting thousands of people to evacuate and triggering tsunami warnings across the South Pacific.

The quake was the largest in a series of tremors that struck the region over several hours Friday, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3.

While the quakes triggered warning systems and caused traffic jams and some chaos in New Zealand as people scrambled to get to higher ground, they didn't appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure.

That's because of the remoteness of where they hit.