NZ tsunami warning: Caution in the water urged, future quakes expected

New Zealand appears to have escaped unscathed from yesterday’s trifecta of strong earthquakes and a tsunami threat – but there are still warnings to be careful in the water today.

Civil Defence confirmed to the Herald there had been no reports of damage overnight, after thousands of people were able to return to their homes when yesterday’s tsunami warning was cancelled. However, a number of small earthquakes have been felt off the coast of East Cape overnight and this morning.

Tens of thousands of people nationwide were woken by a powerful magnitude 7.1 earthquake 100km east of Te Araroa at 2.27am on Friday.

Two more earthquakes close to the Kermadec Islands, a magnitude 7.4 and 8.1, jolted the region, sounding off tsunami threat warnings and sirens across the North Island.

Thousands of people grabbed their children and pets and made for higher ground across the east coast of the North Island.

While footage emerged of a small surge at Tokomaru Bay, tsunami warnings were cancelled by the afternoon.

GeoNet recorded tsunami arrivals in New Zealand from the East Cape earthquake: East Cape waters experienced a small 35-40cm tsunami surge, and Great Barrier Island a 15-20cm surge.

Caution urged as Kiwis return to water

Civil Defence has said it is okay for New Zealanders to return to the water in the affected areas, but urged swimmers and boaties to be careful. Covid alert levels remain in force.

A spokesperson said those who plan on being on the water today should be “vigilant”, saying there is a chance of unusual and changing conditions.

“People need to be aware there still could be strong and unusual currents. The water may be unpredictable so we are encouraging people to be vigilant, stay safe and follow the direction of the harbour master.”

Civil Defence said people could carry on with their usual activities on the water as long as they were responsible and aware of changing conditions.

Flurry of weak earthquakes off East Cape

A number of small earthquakes have been felt off the coast of East Cape overnight and this morning, close to where the 7.1 quake rattled the North Island yesterday.

A magnitude 4.4 quake struck 135km east of Te Araroa at 8.56am today at a depth of 12km.

A 4.7 quake was registered at the same location and depth, at 7.58am today. GeoNet labelled it “weak”.

A flurry of 12 small earthquakes registering between 3.0 and 4.7 occurred in the past 12 hours off the coast of Te Araroa.

Nearly one in 10 live in tsunami evacuation zone

Nearly one in 10 Kiwis, more than 430,000 people, live in tsunami evacuation zones, according to Niwa.

Friday’s tsunami threat was a timely reminder for New Zealanders to be prepared for swift evacuations and have a response plan ready.

Last year, Niwa looked into how many New Zealanders live in tsunami evacuation zones and found more than 150,000 children and elderly were located in affected zones.

Niwa hazards analyst Ryan Paulik says studies have found children and the elderly can experience difficulties in evacuating when there is a tsunami, so it is important to include vulnerable populations in evacuation planning.

Evacuation zones identify areas where a threat to human safety requires people to leave. The zones are designated according to national guidelines and coded red, orange and yellow.

Red zones represent tsunami threats to beach and marine environments, while orange and yellow zones are areas that should be evacuated in larger tsunami events.

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Paulik said 170,000 New Zealanders live in red or orange zones.

“Knowing who and what is located in a tsunami evacuation zone provides a starting point for emergency managers to carry out detailed preparedness and response planning.”

Population exposure is highest in Auckland, followed closely by Canterbury and Bay of Plenty.

Community rallies around evacuated school children

Stories of community spirit, support and kindness are filtering through after yesterday’s evacuations across parts of the North Island.

Residents from Whangārei were told to evacuate to higher ground in the morning, and many wary and tired locals only returned home late yesterday afternoon.

Whangārei Māori school Te Kāpehu Whetū had children at school when they were told to head for higher ground.

With children on edge, locals swooped into action to help take care of students’ needs, offering food, drink, bathrooms, and a safe environment for the kids to wait at.

Some locals from Whangārei’s Morningside suburb even opened their home and back yards to students.

An employee of the school reached out to residents to thank them for their love and security during a stressful day.

“On behalf of Te Kāpehu Whetū Teina, we would like to thank all the residents of Hilltop Ave, Morningside for showing our children the true meaning of kindness and support during today’s tsunami evacuation,” the employee wrote to residents on social media.

“You offered water, grapes and opened your homes for students to use the bathroom.Thank you to Bidvest (wholesale food distributors) and the Fire Brigade who supplied food to everyone on the hill and lastly, thank you to the wonderful lady who kindly offered us a safe environment in your back yard, made us lunch and basically let us have the run of your home.

“Words cannot express how grateful we are.Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Future earthquake threats

GeoNet has warned there is a very likely chance of future earthquakes in the next 30 days.

They say there is up to 90 per cent chance further earthquakes of a smaller magnitude than occurred yesterday will occur in the next month.

However, the chances of earthquakes occurring will decrease in frequency over the next 30 days.

GeoNet says there is an 80 per cent chance for earthquakes in the magnitude 7 to 7.9 range.

Larger earthquakes are more likely to occur in the central Kermadecs.

GeoNet predicts there is less than a 15 per cent chance of a magnitude 8.0 or more earthquake in the next 30 days.

“Should this occur, it is much more likely to be in the central Kermadecs, but it is still possible for it to happen near the East Cape.

“Earthquakes of this size can occur on either the subduction interface or farther away as an “outer rise” earthquake on the incoming Pacific plate, east of the subduction zone.”

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