The first waves of a tsunami caused by an earthquake in Chile reached New Zealand on Sunday, authorities said, but there were no reports of any injuries or damage.

Hundreds of residents on the country's east coast were evacuated to high ground and ships moved out to sea as authorities warned that surges from the tsunami might be felt for most of the day.

Chile was hit on Saturday by a powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake, which killed at least 214 people, knocked down buildings and triggered a tsunami that threatens Pacific coastlines.

The first waves were reported at the remote Chatham Islands, around 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of New Zealand, with surges measured at up to 1.5 meters, the Civil Defense Ministry said.

A resident on one of the smaller islands in the group, Pitt, said the surges were continuing and getting bigger.

"The surges have been getting bigger -- at least 2 meters at present," Bernadette Malinson told Radio New Zealand.

There were reports of unusual drops in sea levels on the east coast of the two main islands of New Zealand, followed by surges of around 20 to 30 centimeters.

In the holiday resort of Tutukaka, around 200 kilometers north of the main city of Auckland, navigation markers in the town's harbor entrance were reported to be shaking violently as several strong surges moved up the channel.

"It has resulted in a washing machine action in the marina," Kate Malcolm, who works in a scuba diving business, told the NZ Press Association.

Authorities said the effects of the tsunami were expected to last for much of the day.

"These are the first arrivals and larger waves may follow over the next six to 12 hours," the Civil Defense Ministry said in a statement.