Tsunami waves hit New Zealand hours after a series of earthquakes struck South Island starting a little after midnight (local time) on Sunday. Thousands of people left their homes as aftershocks continue to hit the area, Radio New Zealand reported. The first quake, which was recorded at 7.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, hit around 95 km from Christchurch. It was followed by several aftershocks, some measuring as high as 6 on the scale.

The first waves arrived in the north-eastern coast two hours after the quake. The local administration said the first waves might not be the largest ones. They expect the tsunami activity to continue for hours. Citizens have been asked to relocate to higher ground. Low-lying areas such as Wellington and Kaikoura are of major concern for the administration. A Tsunami alert has been issued for the region.

The country’s civil defence had issued a Tsunami warning, though the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had earlier said that there was no such threat. Marlborough Civil Defence official, Glyn Walters, said there have been reports of damage to roads, bridges and buildings in the area, Radio New Zealand reported.

“I hope everyone is safe after the earthquake tonight,” the country’s prime minister John Key said. “The civil defence is looking into the impact of the quake. Follow them to stay updated.” Tremors from the earthquake were felt in Wellington, reported The New Zealand Herald. New Zealand sits on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes are common. In February 2011, a powerful earthquake hit Christchurch killing more than 185 people.