Earthquake swarm, North Island tsunami warning after magnitude 8 shake

TSUNAMI WARNING LATEST
* Swarm of earthquakes in Pacific – including magnitude 8.1 quake in Kermadec Islands at 8.28am (NZT) – spark Civil Defence warnings.
* Tsunami warning for large parts of North Island coast – People near coast from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, and Great Barrier Island told to move immediately
* Chaos as workers, students, residents flee to higher ground – gridlock in Whangarei
* 8.1 earthquake followed 7.4 shake at 6.41am and 7.3 quake off North Island coast at 2.27am

Hundreds of workers, students and residents are fleeing to higher ground after a third, massive Pacific earthquake this morning – and a tsunami threat that affects much of the Northland, Bay of Plenty and East Coast coastlines.

Residents have been told to move immediately to higher ground after the magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the Kermadec Islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, at 8.28am (NZT). There is gridlock in cities such as Whangarei and on other roads around the affected regions.

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“People near coast from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, and Great Barrier Island must move immediately to nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible,” the National Emergency Management Agency alerted at 8.45am.

The National Emergency Management Authority said residents must evacuate these areas even if they did not feel the earthquake. “DO NOT WAIT. A damaging tsunami is possible.”

Civil Defence says people have enough time to get to high ground before any tsunami waves reach New Zealand, RNZ reports.

National Emergency Management Agency director Roger Ball says people should stay calm and gather some essentials such as a jacket and water.

He says people should let their neighbours know about the evacutation and help anyone who needs assistance.

Hundreds of residents are fleeing homes, workplaces and schools to get to higher ground, with reports of chaos in centres such as Whangarei and Whakatane. There are reports of people at the beach in Tologa Bay, with cameras.

Businesses in central Whangarei have evacuated and employees have been advised to go to higher ground.

A central Whangarei worker said it was packed in town as people tried to evacuate. “There were heaps of people standing on the street outside their workplaces.”

A tsunami alert siren is sounding in the Whangārei suburb of Onerahi.

Whangarei Intermediate School is evacuating, with pupils walking to higher ground at the cycle track near their school.

People are being told to walk, run or cycle if possible to reduce the chance of getting stuck in traffic.

The National Emergency Management Agency says people should not return to low-lying coastal areas until the all-clear is given by Civil Defence.

According to USGS the latest quake to hit off the Kermedec Islands was magnitude 8.1 and 19.4km deep.

This is the third and largest quake above magntiude seven to hit the Pacific region this morning.

A 7.4 quake struck near Raoul Island in the Kermadecs at 6.41am and many New Zealanders were shaken awake by a magnitude 7.3 quake off the North Island’s east coast at 2.27am.

Both of these earlier quakes triggered Civil Defence tsunami warnings that were later lifted but the third quake has sparked the strongest warnings yet.

ŌHOPE

Ōhope resident Leslie Peake said traffic was “bumper to bumper” all the way down the main drag Harbour Rd and there were “huge queues of people evacuating”.

She said the mood was highly “stressful” and she and her husband would not be getting to higher ground for a while as they waited in traffic.

Hills across the town were “full” with people seen sitting at the top looking out at the ocean, she said.

She said she had been in her bedroom when she received the alert and saw it pop up on the television so she and her husband loaded up their car with their cat and dog.

“We thought maybe we should get moving.”

This morning’s quake had been really strong where Peake was and she said it had been “really rocking and rolling” and “went on for ages”.

“It was really rattling for some time.”

WHAKATANE

Whakatane mayor Judy Turner says the town is “stunned” by the calls to evacuate.

People have been seeking higher ground or attempting to head inland away from the coast. Turner has sought higher ground.

“I have heard there is traffic congestion, so people are concerned about that and hope people will be patient and not get too carried away,” she said.

Turner was aware of parents being concerned about their children at schools around the town but asked they trust their schools evacuation protocols.

She was not aware of which parts of the town would be under threat if a tsunami struck.

Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer says the town was evacuating following the order to move to higher ground.

She said most of the coastal Bay of Plenty town had to evacuate.

“Most people are under way, all moving out,” Riesterer said. “All of the alerts went off on mobile phones at the same time so everyone is moving.

“People know where to go. They either head towards Gisborne or they come up to Hospital Hill.”

Ōpōtiki had a population of about 4800 according to the 2018 census and is located on the coast, with the Waioeka River and the Otara River surrounding the town.

“I think people are [well prepared] … but it’s about making sure all the people get the message and move on out.”

While the Kermedec Islands are expected to fare the worst, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Nuie, Pitcarin Island, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Wallis and Fortuna and New Zealand are alll in the firing line.

The waves are expected to be anywhere from .3 to one metre above the tide level.

A tsunami warning has been issued for the whole of American Samoa as a result of the quake activity here.

The US National Weather Service Pago Pago issued the alert shortly before 9amNZT.
“All residents along the coasts must evacuate immediately to higher ground immediately.”

GREAT BARRIER ISLAND

Radio New Zealand reporter Carol Stiles is on Great Barrier Island and says cars have been moving up Sugar Loaf Hill to get to higher ground since news broke of an evacuation warning for the island.

RAOUL ISLAND

People who have experienced the latest quake on nearby Raoul Island have described the quake at intensity level 9.

The Department of Conservation has confirmed it currently has no staff, contractors, or researchers on Raoul Island.

THE FULL WARNING

* Areas under threat: People near the coast in the following areas must move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible. DO NOT STAY AT HOME

* The East Coast of the North Island from the BAY OF ISLANDS to WHANGAREI, from MATATA to TOLAGA BAY including Whakatane and Opotiki adnd GREAT BARRIER ISLAND.

* The earthquake may not have been felt in some of these areas, but evacuation should be immediate as a damaging tsunami is possible.

* PEOPLE IN ALL OTHER AREAS who felt a LONG OR STRONG earthquake that made it hard to stand up, or lasted longer than a minute, should MOVE IMMEDIATELY to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible.

* Evacuation advice overrides the current Covid-19 Alert Level requirements. Listen to local Civil Defence authorities and follow any instructions regarding evacuation of your area. If you are told to evacuate do not stay at home. Stay 2 metres away from others if you can and if it is safe to do so.

* Do not return until an official all-clear message is given by Civil Defence.

* Walk, run or cycle if at all possible to reduce the chances of getting stuck in traffic congestion.

* The first wave may not be the largest. Tsunami activity will continue for several hours and the threat is real until this warning is cancelled.

* The National Emergency Management Agency and GNS Science will continue to assess the threat and provide an update within an hour.

* An Emergency Mobile Alert will be issued to all capable phones in the areas under threat. People who are near the coast in the AREAS UNDER THREAT listed above or near the coast and felt the earthquake LONG OR STRONG, should MOVE NOW. DO NOT WAIT for an Emergency Mobile Alert to your mobile phone, or local warnings.

* People in all New Zealand coastal areas should:
Listen to the radio and/or TV for updates, and NZCivilDefence Twitter
Listen to local Civil Defence authorities
Stay out of the water (sea, rivers and estuaries, this includes boats)
Stay off beaches and shore areas
Do not go sightseeing
Share this information with family, neighbours and friends

* Only messages issued by the National Emergency Management Agency represent the official warning status for New Zealand. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) messages do not represent the official warning status for New Zealand.

* This warning will remain in effect until a cancellation message is issued by the National Emergency Management Agency.

EARLIER

A new 7.4m earthquake near the Kermadec Islands has sparked another Civil Defence tsunami activity advisory, following an earlier, massive jolt off the New Zealand east coast that woke thousands of Kiwis.

Authorities issued a national advisory at 7.30am on Friday, warning people of tsunami activity near the Kermadec Islands. It followed a 7.4 magnitude earthquake off Raoul Island, the largest of the islands, at 6.41am.

“We expect New Zealand coastal areas to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore,” said the National Emergency Management Agency.

“People in or near the sea in the following areas should move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, rivers and estuaries.”

The advisory covers east coast areas of Northland – from the Bay of Islands to Whāngārei.

Just after 8.30am, the agency said: “GNS Science continue to assess the tsunami threat from the M7.4 Kermadec Islands earthquake at 6:41am. At this time there is no new information. We will provide a further update within the next hour.”

NEMA said there was no need to evacuate other areas, unless directly advised to by local Civil Defence authorities.

The latest jolt followed an earlier earthquake that struck at 2.27am about 95km east of Te Araroa on the North Island’s East Coast, causing “severe” shaking throughout much of the country.

Land and marine warnings that followed the 7.3 earthquake were later lifted and people were told they could return to their homes. So far, there have been no reports of injuries or major damage.

GeoNet had received more than 52,000 “felt” reports from people across the country.

“Our network of seismographs clearly show the shaking from the mainshock, and aftershocks throughout New Zealand,” GeoNet said.

“The earthquake is in a similar area to the 7.1 East Cape earthquake in 2016, an area familiar with larger earthquakes with 40 events over M5.0 in the past 10 years.”

The area along the east coast of the North Island and north of East Cape is one of the more seismically active regions of New Zealand. The seismicity is associated with the Pacific Plate pushing – or subducting – beneath the Australian Plate, under the North Island.

Trains were halted and lines across eastern parts of the North Island are now closed ahead of track inspection for possible quake damage.

People in Auckland, Wellington and even Christchurch all reported feeling the quake.

“She was a beauty, it really shook. I’m quite frightened, I’ve got no idea if there’s going to be a tsunami, it was massive,” Rex from Gisborne told Newstalk ZB’s Bruce Russell. “It’s the biggest I’ve felt in a long, long time and I’m 80.”

In tears on Newstalk ZB, Helen in the Chatham Islands said: “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever felt. It went on and on and on. I’m in the old stone house and I didn’t know where to stand because it’s all rock. I’ve never felt one so big – it must be massive across New Zealand. It died down and then went on and on again.”

Janice in Napier told the station: “I’m still shaking. I was lying in bed … and the next minute, the quake comes in and it lasted for ages. The biggest one I’ve felt. This was one jolt and it kept going. I eventually got up and sat under the doorway, oh my God.”

Harry in New Plymouth told Newstalk ZB: “That was a bit of a doozy. I felt it as clear as if it was happening underneath. It woke me up… I have the map in front of me, she certainly was a jolt. To be that far away and it still got to us. If you are near the water folks, get away.”

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz said it was a big shake. “Everyone was awake, our Civil Defence teams got into action immediately to make sure everyone was safe and sound.”

She said she’s incredibly proud of the locals who acted fast. “Gisborne people, Tairāwhiti people, when there’s an earthquake and it is long or strong, they self-evacuate. Because you cannot wait for locally-created earthquakes, you need to self-evacuate.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has posted on Instagram: “Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast who would have felt the full force of that earthquake”. She repeated the message on Facebook:

Hope everyone is ok out there – especially on the East Coast whowould have felt the full force of that earthquake (the map here shows just how many people were reporting it across the country)

KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the network was shut soon after the tremor struck,from Napier to Wairoa, Tauranga to Kawerau, and from Kawerau to Murupara, pending inspections by track staff.

“Two log services were halted while we worked to ensure the safety of our network, however both have now resumed their service.”

No other freight services were affected.

Moyle said the inspection of the Napier line would take place later today as the next train wasn’t scheduled to run until tomorrow.

There have been 15 smaller earthquakes since the 2.27am jolt, ranging from magnitude 5.4 to 4.4, also centred near East Cape.

These aftershocks are common following big quakes in the region – and those which followed a 7.2 earthquake in 1995 continued for around two years.

In 1947, there were two earthquakes off the coast of Gisborne with magnitude of about 7.0, which produced tsunamis with heights of several metres

The National Emergency Management Agency says residents who evacuated after the early morning tsunami warning can return to their homes.

“Based on current scientific advice and information from coastal tsunami gauges there is no longer a threat to land areas. People who have evacuated can now return home,” the agency said in a tweet just after 5am.

“There is no need to evacuate other areas unless directly advised by local civil defence authorities. Coastal inundation (flooding of land areas near the shore) is no longer expected as a result of this event.”

And just after 6am, it said the threat of strong and unusual currents had passed.

“Based on GNS Science’s modelling and ocean observations on tide gauges and the New Zealand DART Buoys, our science advice is that the threat of strong and unusual currents has now passed for all parts of New Zealand including the Chatham Islands,” it tweeted.

The agency just after 5am said there was no need to evacuate other areas unless advised by local civil defence authorities.

Coastal flooding was no longer expected.

The earthquake was originally reported as a 7.4m quake, then downgraded.

Fire and Emergency NZ had this morning implemented tsunami procedures across eastern coastal regions as a precaution.

Many people across New Zealand were woken by an emergency notification on their phones this morning activated by the government agency overseeing the unfolding tsunami threat.

Bay of Plenty Civil Defence said an emergency mobile alert had been issued by the National Emergency Management Agency warning of coastal flooding in the East Coast of the North Island from the east of Cape Runaway to Tologa Bay.

The alert had been sent to residents in those areas.

But not everyone in the tsunami zone reported getting the alert – while a person living in the South Island reported getting up to 17 alerts on an iPhone.

A man living in Tolaga Bay said he did not receive any emergency texts or tsunami alerts.

He said while there were social media posts on Twitter and Facebook from local civil defence about the need to evacuate, a lot of elderly people in the region did not have access to this technology.

“We need alarms. We need coastal tsunami alert systems that go off,” he told Newstalk ZB’s Bruce Russell.

He said scared families had taken refuge up a nearby hill.

According to the NEMA website emergency mobile alerts are messages about emergencies sent by authorised emergency agencies to capable mobile phones.

The alerts can be targeted to areas affected by serious hazards and will only be sent when there is a serious threat to life, health or property, and, in some cases, for test purposes.

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