A tourist on her honeymoon in Vanuatu says locals were completely unaware of a tsunami alert after three earthquakes shook the region.
Tsunami warnings were issued for large parts of the South Pacific, but Leia, from Bendigo in central Victoria, told ABC Radio that she only found out about warning after her brother in Australia called her.
"The tour guide looked at me very strangely and with broken English was like: `What do you mean?'
"And I said: `Don't you have tsunami warnings?' and he said `No. We've never had to do this before'."
The Vanuatu tour guide then called the local weather station and Leia spoke with the centre and discovered they also had "no idea" about any tsunami threat.
"It was very frightening to have the locals not aware of what was going on," she said.
Civil Defence has issued a statement reiterating that the National Advisory - Potential Threat for New Zealand represents the country's official status.
"This is in spite of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, who has cancelled their warning for New Zealand," it said.
"We still advise people on the West Coast from Northcape to Hokitika and on the East Coast from North Cape to Auckland to stay clear of beaches and out of the water as well as refrain from boating activities due to expected strong currents until a cancellation is issued.
For other areas people should be vigilant around coastal areas.
AFP news agency reported that residents of New Caledonia's eastern shore and nearby Loyalty Islands were being moved to higher ground.
"Some schools have already been evacuated in the Loyalty Islands and sirens are going to sound soon for the population to find shelter and get away from the coast," a civil security spokesman told AFP.
AFP also reported that Tuvalu residents were being evacuated from coastal areas.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has cancelled its tsunami warnings and watches for Vanuatu, New Zealand and other Pacific nations.
It said sea level readings indicated a tsunami had been generated which could have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicentre.
Local authorities could assume the threat had passed if no major waves were observed for two hours after the estimated time of arrival.
Danger to boats and coastal structures could continue for several hours due to rapid currents, the centre said.
It said the 'all clear' determination must be made by local authorities.
Chris Nemaia from the Solomon Islands Visitor's Bureau and is based in Honiara.
He said he did not personally feel the quake but the bureau is still trying to find out if outer- islands have been affected by the earth quake or a possible tsunami.
Bob Makin, editor of the
newspaper in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila, told nzherald.co.nz "there is no problem, the situation has been and passed".
He said, if anything, there was a slight dip and rise of water in the harbour.
In the next hours and days his paper will investigate the islands in northern Vanuatu, the Torres and Banks groups, which have isolated communities.
He was not expecting colossal damage.
Civil Defence says a Tsunami measuring 0.04 metres has been recorded near Vanuatu.
It says the tsunami is still not expected to be destructive for New Zealand but people on the West Coast from Northcape to Hokitika and on the East Coast from Northcape to Auckland are advised to stay clear of beaches and out of the water as well as refrain from boating activities.
For other areas people should be vigilant around coastal areas.
In a statement it said : "The Pacfic Tsunami Warning Centre has upgraded New Zealand into a warning position in its latest bulletin (#2). This warning status does not apply to New Zealand. The official status for New Zealand remains National Advisory - Potential Threat."
A worker at Port Vila's Daily Post has told nzherald.co.nz that "everyone is moving to higher ground and is quite nervous."
"But hopefully we're only expecting a little wave," she said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated.
"It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicentre and could also be a threat to more distant coasts," it says.
A tsunami warning is in effect for: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Kiribati, Kosrae, Wallis-Futuna, Howard-Baker, Marshall Islands, Tokelau, Kermadec Islands, Pohnpei, New Zealand, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Australia, Niue, Cook Islands, Chuuk, Indonesia.
A tsunami watch is in effect for: Wake Island, Jarvis Island, Palmyra Island, Guam, N. Marianas. Johnston Island, Yap, Marcus Island, Belau, Midway Island, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Philippines.
Department of Conservation staff at Cape Reinga have been put on stand-by for a tsunami.
A local resort owner on Espiritu Santo Island said the quake shook the island but, despite a tsunami warning, there were no real safety fears.
"We're on the other side of the island, the side where the tsunami would hit is very mountainous," Charmaine Viljoen, owner of Coral Quays Resort, said.
She said mountains on the island's western side go almost straight into the sea and there were very few communities living on the coastline.
Civil Defence says any tsunami generated by the earthquakes in Vanuatu is unlikely to be destructive for New Zealand however the Potential Threat Advisory remains in effect.
A third quake measuring at 7.1 hit at 12.13pm near Vanuatu's northernmost island of Hiu, the US Geological survey reported.
Staff at New Zealand's High Commission in Vanuatu are trying to make contact with New Zealanders living throughout the island chain following this morning's powerful earthquake that struck the north of the group.
About 250 New Zealanders are registered with the commission, and officials were trying to make contact, though it was not known how many were living in the north of Vanuatu.
Port Vila-based High Commissioner Jeff Langley described the 11am (NZT), 7.8 quake as "a noticeable, long-rolling shake" that lasted about 30 seconds.
Mr Langley said there did not appear to be any damage in Port Vila.
There had been a number of earthquakes since the shake that triggered last week's Samoa tsunami, and "quite a bit" of volcanic activity on the island of Gaua, in the Baker Islands group to the north.
Today's quake lasted longer than other recent quakes, but did not feel any stronger.
Residents were surprised to learn of the strength of the shake, Mr Langley said.
Shane Coleman, at the High Commission at Port Vila in Vanuatu said the tremors did not seem to cause any damage and so far there was no sign of a tsunami.
"It was a long and lazy quake," he said.
A tsunami warning had been put in place and most residents were heading for high ground.
"The events in Samoa have taken the complacency out of people here," Mr Coleman said.
Civil Defence has issued predicted arrival times of the potential tsunami.
* North Cape - 2.34pm
* East Cape - 3.16pm
* Auckland (West) - 3.33pm
* Gisborne - 3.49pm
* New Plymouth - 4.10pm
* Auckland (East) - 4.14pm
* Napier - 4.29pm
* Milford Sound - 4.35pm
* Wellington - 4.39pm
* Westport - 4.50pm.
Vanuatu was struck by two earthquakes, the first measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale at 11.03am (NZT) and the second measuring 7.3 at 11.18am.
Civil Defence has advice on its website on how to prepare for a possible tsunami.
An advisory is being sent to all responding agencies, including the Fire Service, police, local authorities and others to put them on standby.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has issued a warning for Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck off Vanuatu.
New Zealand, Samoa and Australia are among places on tsunami watch.
The quake struck 294km northwest of the Vanuatu island of Santo and 596km northwest of the capital of Port Vila at a depth of 35km.
There were no immediate reports of injury or damage from officials in Vanuatu, a collection of nearly 200 islands.