Wellington - Schools and universities in affected areas will be closed on Monday following a massive earthquake in New Zealand.
The 7.5 earthquake, which struck just after midnight, was felt as far north as Auckland and has caused damage and knocked out power to a number of regions, stuff.co.nz reported.
It has been followed by a series of large earthquakes across New Zealand up to 6.5 in magnitude, which prompted tsunami alerts, causing residents of coastal areas to flee inland, Radio New Zealand reported.
Most were in the upper South Island, in Seddon and Kaikoura, but a 4.9 magnitude earthquake hit Paraparaumu and a 4.9 hit Wellington in the early hours.
Another tremor of 5.1 struck at 06:17 local time (19:17 SA time) the USGS reported .
Two fatalities have been confirmed.
Prime Minister John Key said he couldn’t rule out the number of fatalities rising, Bloomberg reported.
"Certainly here in Wellington, it was the most significant shock I can ever remember and people will be feeling quite vulnerable,” Key told reporters. “It went on for so long.”
Police said one death occurred in the coastal town of Kaikoura, not far from the centre of the quake, where a historic homestead collapsed.
Markets are expected to open as usual on Monday, the New Zealand Stock Exchange said according to Bloomberg.