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New Zealand tsunami alert, issued after 7.6-magnitude quake, is canceled (UPDATES)

A tsunami warning for New Zealand, the Kermadec Islands and Tonga that was issued early Thursday was canceled by New Zealand civil defense authorities, but they cautioned that there could be strong ocean currents around the east coast of the country and told people to stay off the beaches and out of the ocean in that area, according to Reuters.

New Zealand went on tsunami alert early Thursday after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck off the island nation's northeast coast, in the area of the Kermadec Islands. The quake was originally registered as a 7.8-magnitude, but GeoNet modified that to a 7.6-magnitude, TVNZ reported.

The New Zealand civil defense authorities said they expected "stronger-than-normal ocean currents and a possible increase in the size of waves," Reuters reports.

A Pacific Ocean tsunami warning was issued for the country's North Island, where the main city, Auckland, is located, with the first surge expected just before 9 a.m. local time.

Tsunami warnings was also in effect for Tonga and the Kermadec Islands, the Business Insider reports, citing the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The tsunami warning issued by that organization was also canceled, TVNZ reported.

The Ministry of Civil Defense, which confirmed "that a tsunami was generated," called on people to stay off beaches, stay out of the water and not go sightseeing, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The ministry had said that the first wave would arrive in New Zealand around 8:52 a.m. "The first wave may arrive later and may not be the largest. Waves will continue for several hours," it added.

A "marine threat" had been issued for Northland, Bay of Plenty, East Coast and Hawkes Bay, all located on New Zealand's North Island. It was still in place after the tsunami warnings were canceled.

In February, a major earthquake hit New Zealand's south island city of Christchurch, ultimately killing close to 150 people.

In June, aftershocks further damaged parts of the city devastated by the Feb. 22 quakes and Prime Minister John Key said they may have to be permanently abandoned, the CSM reports.