Haumoana, Clifton and Te Awanga residents had a long night last night, evacuated to the Haumoana School Hall after this morning's 7.5 earthquake that rocked the country just after midnight.

Haumoana residents Colin and Judy Barnes were among those who headed to the hall, having been alerted by neighbours and on the internet after the quake triggered a tsunami alert.

Mr Barnes said they had a "grab bag" at the ready, and joined a large number of people in their vehicles who congregated at the hall.

"We were there until daybreak before we got the word that we could go home, but were advised to be prepared to be evacuated again."

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He said the mood among those gathered was "fairly relaxed".

"Most people in the area understand - the message had got through that that's the evacuation point to go to."

He was surprised, however, at how few people had an emergency kit."

This morning there is still a tsunami threat in place for marine and beach areas and people are advised to stay out of the water and stay off the beaches.