Two people are confirmed dead, after an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 has struck near Christchurch, New Zealand. The US Geological Survey said the quake hit the South Island at 11.02am GMT (0.02am, 14 November), 57 miles northeast of the city.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has confirmed that two people died, reported Reuters news agency.

The New Zealand Civil Defence has issued a tsunami warning following the quake, urging nearby residents to find higher ground, and the first tsunami wave has reportedly been detected. The statement said: "A tsunami is possible following the earthquake 20km southeast of Seddon.

"People near the eastern coast of the south island should immediately move to high ground or inland as far as possible.

"Walk or bike if possible and drive only if essential. Stay away from at-risk areas until the official all-clear is given."

It is not yet clear what the scale of the damage from the quake is and whether there are any injuries.

On social media, people have said local radio reported that some houses near the epicentre have been destroyed.

Andrew Fitzgerald tweeted: "According to some reports on radio a few houses have been destroyed in Cheviot near the epicentre of first quake. Thoughts to all those there."

Internet and landlines are reportedly down too.

Gerard Campbell said: "Parents in Blenheim say they're still getting aftershocks and have no power or internet. Mobile networks still working, thankfully."

Some said the original earthquake lasted nearly five minutes and continued to feel the aftershocks nearly an hour after.

The quake comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry met with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

Powerful quake hits New Zealand near Christchurch
Powerful quake hits New Zealand near Christchurch US Geological Survey

They met in Wellington, New Zealand's capital some 200km away, on Sunday (13 November) but "strong jolts" were still felt there, reported AP.

Kerry and Key were discussing the ill-fated Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, though its future was jeopardised with election of Donald Trump.

New Zealand sits on the "Ring of Fire" – an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes are common. An earthquake in 2011 in Christchurch killed 185 people.