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Tsunami risk info underlines need to be prepared

MEDIA RELEASE

30 September 2013

Tsunami risk info underlines need to be prepared

New data showing increased tsunami height risk in the Waikato underlines the need for coastal communities to be well prepared for the dangers they could face, say Waikato Civil Defence and Waikato Regional Council.

The data is contained in a national report released today by the Minister of Civil Defence.

For the region’s east coast, which is considered most at risk from tsunami with little warning time, the new data shows a general increase in the potential wave height from an offshore earthquake.

On the Waikato’s west coast, the report also shows an increase in the potential wave height, although it still concludes that the risk is lower when compared with the region’s east coast.

“We have been well aware of the risks tsunami pose to our coastal communities for some time, and along with the regional council, district councils and other partners have been doing a lot of work on assessing and planning for the risks we face,” said Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management Group controller Lee Hazlewood.

“We will now be doing more work to understand the implications of the ministry’s new information for this existing work in the Waikato, what extra risks it might mean, and what the implications are for our coastal communities and for our emergency response planning.

“Also, this new risk assessment reinforces the need for those living near the coast to know what to do when they sense natural warnings, such as a big earthquake, or receive other warnings about a possible or actual tsunami on the way.

“We strongly encourage people to be aware of natural warning signs, local warning systems and evacuation routes so that they can take prompt action.

“One of the key messages for people in coastal communities is that if you feel a strong earthquake, an unusually long earthquake, or notice a rapid drop in the sea level, you should immediately head for high ground or inland as far as possible. Do not wait for official warnings.”

Mr Hazlewood said Waikato Civil Defence would be liaising with regional council specialists and others on the implications of the new data for civil defence planning.

The regional council’s community safety programme manager Adam Munro said the council, along with Thames-Coromandel District Council and local communities, was already implementing an Eastern Coromandel Tsunami Strategy to assess and plan for the risks faced by tsunami.

This followed earlier new research for the council indicating a greater risk on the east coast than previously thought from tsunami generated by powerful earthquakes in the Tonga-Kermadec trench to the north-east of New Zealand.

“The new national data will help us further in our planning for Coromandel communities.”

Whitianga’s planning for tsunami under the Eastern Coromandel Tsunami Strategy is well-advanced, while progress is also being made with the Tairua-Pauanui community. Other east coast communities will be addressed later.

“The national data is a very timely reminder that we can’t afford to be complacent about the risks we face on both of our coastlines. Without being alarmist or suggesting anything is imminent, it’s really not a case of if a big tsunami will strike again but when,” said Mr Munro.

ENDS

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