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Tsunami event demands answers - CDEM Canterbury

May 4, 2006

Tsunami event demands answers - CDEM Canterbury Chair

This morning’s non-event tsunami could have caused civil pandemonium had the Tongan earthquake happened two hours later, says Chair of the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management group Cr Sue Wells.

“New Zealand's emergency communications missed the boat badly this morning,” say Cr Wells.

Cr Wells is critical of the time it took for local Civil Defence Emergency Management key staff to be contacted by their head office counterparts. "The Ministry waited an hour until 5.20 am before contacting our local civil defence staff. The first advice they gave us was ruling out the tsunami. The international media had spent that hour telling people about a potential tsunami. We had more warning from CNN than we did from the Ministry of Civil Defence."

“Media were being advised that a tsunami might hit Lyttelton at around 8 am. We wasted an hour, from 4.20 until 5.20 am. Local civil defence staff should have been immediately alerted when the first warnings were sent to Wellington and the National Crisis Management Centre from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.
This would have given emergency teams around the region a chance to mobilise and be ready to evacuate coastal communities had it been confirmed that a wave was on its way. “

"That hour long information gap could have caused chaos had it happened once people were awake. Local civil defence groups should be advised of potential risks by their Ministry - not by the international media."

Cr Wells has written to the Minister of Civil Defence and Emergency Management

Rick Barker expressing her concern at gaps in the early warning system’s effective communication from Wellington to people in the coastal areas likely to be affected.

ENDS

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