A tsunami warning was issued by the U.S. Geological Survey after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck off New Zealand's western coast Wednesday.
The quake's epicenter was 100 miles (161 kilometers) west of Invercargill, off the west coast of New Zealand's South Island at a depth of 21 miles (33 kilometers). It hit at 0922 GMT on Wednesday, the USGS said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii sent an e-mail alert warning of a possible tsunami in New Zealand.
"An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours," the warning center said, The Associated Press reports.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii issued the warning soon after the quake struck.
The centre said it was not known if a tsunami was generated, but it was issuing the warning based on the earthquake evaluation.
"An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicentre within minutes to hours," it said.
There are between 10,000 and 15,000 earthquakes in and around New Zealand each year. Most are small, but between 100 and 150 are big enough to be felt, according to GNS Science.
The biggest known quake in New Zealand was the magnitude 8.2 Wairarapa earthquake of 1855.
The biggest New Zealand earthquake since instrumental recording began was the 1931 magnitude 7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake, New Zealand Herald.