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1947 Tatapouri tsunami story resurfaces

3 October 2005

1947 Tatapouri tsunami story resurfaces

"The first wave took everything other than the Hotel back to sea with its backwash. We could see a shed that was full of furniture, a small dinghy, a two roomed cottage, plus a variety of other objects that had been in the waves path, floating out to sea."

June Young was living with her parents in the Tatapouri Hotel in March 1947 when the ten-metre tsunami hit the east coast after an earthquake off Poverty Bay. She remembers running up the hill at the rear of the hotel with her mother to escape the rushing water and says that after the water subsided there was seaweed left hanging in the power lines.

June's story is one of many disaster stories that have resurfaced following a call to New Zealanders for first hand accounts of 'when disaster strikes' for inclusion in Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

"We are working on the next theme of Te Ara, 'Earth, Sea and Sky' and we're interested in stories about natural disasters like floods, storms, earthquakes and tsunami such as this Gisborne one," said Simon Nathan, Science Editor of Te Ara.

"There are a number of recorded tsunami reaching our shores, mostly along the east coast, that have caused local damage over the years, especially in 1947 and 1960. With a long, exposed coastline, New Zealand is vulnerable to tsunami damage."

Te Ara will put the best of the disaster stories online in the next theme 'Earth, Sea and Sky', and all the contributions will be passed on to the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS), who research and advise on the social impact of natural disasters.

Te Ara is the world's first national online encyclopedia and it will be published progressively in themes over the next seven years.

Accounts of disaster experiences should be around 500 words and the inclusion of supporting photographs would be useful. Contributions need to be received by Friday 16 December 2005.

Full details on how to submit your story can be found in the Te Ara News section at


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