When tsunami hits — be pre­pared

A huge sea wave could surge in at any time, so don’t be caught out, writes Sarah Stu­art-Black

The New Zealand Herald - - Opinion - Sarah Stu­art-Black, di­rec­tor, Civil De­fence Emer­gency Man­age­ment.

‘Long or Strong, Get Gone.” Evac­u­ate im­me­di­ately — don’t wait for any­thing. That was a key theme as top in­ter­na­tional tsunami ex­perts gath­ered in Welling­ton last week un­der the Unesco In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Oceano­graphic Com­mis­sion to de­velop a firmer grasp of tsunami risk in the South­west Pa­cific.

Tsunami is at the fore­front of our minds for good rea­son; the dev­as­tat­ing Box­ing Day Tsunami of 2004 and more re­cent deadly events such as the Samoa tsunami in 2009, the Ja­pan tsunami in 2011 and, on Septem­ber 28, this year, the tragic tsunami in In­done­sia. These are re­minders to be pre­pared.

New Zealand has a lot of coast­line with many peo­ple liv­ing there. Add to that our seis­mi­cally ac­tive coun­try — as last month’s 6.2 Tau­marunui quake demon­strated. On­go­ing re­search, sys­tems that mon­i­tor, de­tect, and is­sue warn­ings of tsunami, and all of us know­ing what to do, are key to be­ing pre­pared.

A large, de­struc­tive tsunami has not hit New Zealand since our coast­lines be­came densely pop­u­lated. In 2016, we had two lo­cal-source tsunami, one from the East Cape earth­quake, and then the Kaiko¯ ura earth­quake, which gen­er­ated a tsunami de­spite the in­land epi­cen­tre. Both showed how quickly they can ar­rive. For­tu­nately, no one was hurt or killed.

The more we know, the bet­ter placed we are to keep our­selves, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties safe. And we are learn­ing more about tsunami haz­ards.

For ex­am­ple, re­cent GNS Sci­ence re­search on the Ker­madec Trench north of New Zealand has shown we may not strongly feel large quakes that could gen­er­ate a tsunami just one hour’s travel time away. This has led to ar­range­ments to trig­ger evac­u­a­tions if quakes orig­i­nat­ing in the Ker­madecs meet cer­tain thresh­olds.

The Govern­ment is act­ing on many fronts to man­age our tsunami risk. As part of the emer­gency man­age­ment sys­tem re­forms, work is un­der way to speed up tsunami warn­ings. The Min­istry of Civil De­fence and Emer­gency Man­age­ment and GNS Sci­ence, to­gether with Civil De­fence Emer­gency Man­age­ment Groups, are work­ing to strengthen and stream­line risk-man­age­ment ar­range­ments. This year, GNS Sci­ence will open its 24-7 cen­tre to mon­i­tor and de­tect all geo­haz­ard risks in­clud­ing tsunami. The re­cently launched emer­gency mo­bile alerts sys­tem al­lows agen­cies to is­sue smart­phone no­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Our “Long or Strong, Get Gone” cam­paign started in late 2016. En­cour­ag­ingly, re­search shows 90 per cent of Ki­wis know what to do if they feel a long or strong quake near the coast. We’ve added a tsunami h¯ıkoi to the annual New Zealand ShakeOut drill and 870,000 Ki­wis par­tic­i­pated just two weeks ago.

Heed of­fi­cial warn­ings. But don’t wait for them. If you have felt a quake longer than a minute, or it is hard to stand, get mov­ing. A quake like that is the best and fastest warn­ing. Ev­ery minute and ev­ery me­tre you head in­land after that quake counts. Find out from your coun­cil if you’re in an evac­u­a­tion zone. Prac­tise your evac­u­a­tion route.

Have a house­hold plan and a grab bag. Know how to stay in­formed; we is­sue alerts through mul­ti­ple chan­nels, such as ra­dio, TV, emer­gency mo­bile alerts, so­cial me­dia and at civilde­fence.govt.nz

A large tsunami hit­ting our shores is not a mat­ter of if, but a mat­ter of when. The good news is that know­ing the right ac­tions can keep us all safe.

Photo / NZPA

Sol­diers hunt for bod­ies after an earth­quakegen­er­ated tsunami crashed into Ishi­no­mako, Ja­pan, in 2011.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.