tsunami map
Credit: USGS
This USGS map shows a magnitude 8 earthquake struck the Kermadec Islands region at 9:28 a.m. Hawaii time, prompting a tsunami watch.

A powerful magnitude 8.1 earthquake has struck in the ocean off the coast of New Zealand, prompting evacuations and tsunami warnings across the South Pacific region.

It was the second large quake to strike within hours Friday.

An offshore magnitude 7.3 quake had awoken many people during the night throughout New Zealand.

While both quakes triggered warning systems, neither of them appeared to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure.

Civil defense authorities in New Zealand told people in certain areas on the East Coast of the North Island that they should move immediately to higher ground and should not stay in their homes.

They said a damaging tsunami was possible, which could generate a tsunami that could be destructive to the coast of Hawaii.

The Tsunami Center is still evaluating threats of a tsunami on the U.S. west coast.