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A tsunami alert was issued for much of Alaska and Canada's British Columbia after a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck off Alaska's Kodiak Island early on Tuesday morning (Tuesday night NZ Time).

The strong earthquake hit at a depth of 10km at 12.32am local time (10.32pm NZT) and was recorded about 280km southeast of Kodiak Island. The US west coast was put under a tsunami watch, but this was later cancelled.

Warnings from the National Weather Service sent to cellphones in Alaska warned: "Emergency Alert. Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland."

The quake hit about 10.30pm New Zealand time.
 

Kodiak officials warned residents to evacuate if they lived in low-lying areas.

About two hours after the quake, the city of Kodiak, which was projected to see the first wave at about 1.45am local time (11.45pm NZT, still had no reports of a wave hitting.

READ MORE: Live blog: 7.9 earthquake in Gulf of Alaska

A tsunami alert was issued following a large earthquake off the coast of Alaska.
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A tsunami alert was issued following a large earthquake off the coast of Alaska

"Tsunami sirens just went off in Kodiak, Alaska," one user on Twitter wrote after the quake. Kodiak was expected to be one of the first in line for a tsunami.

Lieutenant Tim Putney of the Kodiak Police Department said: "We haven't seen anything yet or had any reports of a wave."

However, officials were telling people to hold fast at evacuation centres until further notice. He said the town has several shelters above the 100-foot mark, and they were still encouraging people below that level to evacuate.

The earthquake woke Putney up out of a dead sleep, and he estimates it shook for at least 30 seconds.

"I've been Kodiak for 19 years that was the strongest, longest lasting one I've ever felt," he said by telephone.

The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the quake was felt widely in several communities on the Kenai Peninsula and throughout southern Alaska, but it also had no immediate reports of damage. People reported on social media that the quake was felt hundreds of miles away, in Anchorage.

Kerry Seifert, an emergency management specialist in the state emergency operations centre, said the centre had not received any reports of damage as the timeline for initial waves reaching some communities had passed.

"This is almost too soon to be into it to get that kind of information," he said. "And certainly, communities are climbing hills, some of them."

New Zealand's Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said it and GNS Science were assessing if it had generated a tsunami that could affect New Zealand.

Authorities in Kodiak, Alaska, are telling residents to move to higher ground after a strong earthquake struck nearby, prompting tsunami warning for a large swath of coastal Alaska and Canada's British Columbia while the remainder of the US West Coast was under a watch.

A dispatcher at the Kodiak police department answered a call from The Associated Press by saying: "If this about the tsunami, you need to get to higher ground immediately."

Warnings from the National Weather Service sent to cellphones in Alaska warned: "Emergency Alert. Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland."

Kodiak officials warned residents to evacuate if they lived in low-lying areas.

Keith Perkins, who lives in the southeast Alaska community of Sitka, arrived at the high school early on Tuesday morning, after an alarm on his cellphone alerted him of the tsunami warning. He said the city's sirens also went off later.

He said people on Facebook were chattering back and forth about whether this was real or not and what they should do.

Given the magnitude of the earthquake, Perkins said he thought it best to head to school, the tsunami evacuation point, even though in the past he felt his home was at a "high-enough spot."

"I figured I'd probably just better play it safe," he said.

He said police officers were directing traffic and the parking lot at the school was filling up. He said he saw some people carrying suitcases or backpacks. Perkins said he didn't bring anything along.

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