New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is warning coastal areas are expected to experience strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges following a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in the Pacific.
A tsunami threat was issued for Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia after the 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck southeast of the Loyalty Islands.
The warnings were issued just after 3pm by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. The earthquake was nearly 38 km deep.
In its warning, NEMA said: “Strong currents and surges can injure and drown people. There is a danger to swimmers, surfers, people fishing, and anyone in or near the water close to shore.
“People … should move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, marinas, rivers and estuaries.”
The first tsunami activity causing these strong currents and surges may reach New Zealand in the areas North Cape at approximately 5pm, NEMA said.
“This may be later and the first tsunami activity may not be the most significant. Strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges will continue for several hours and the threat must be regarded as real until this advisory is cancelled.”
Coastal inundation was not expected, NEMA said.
The areas under threat:
- The West Coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Whanganui including the West Coast of Auckland, Manukau Harbour and New Plymouth
- The East Coast of the North Island from Cape Reinga to Tolaga Bay including Whangārei, Great Barrier Island, the East Coast of Auckland, Waiheke Island, Waitematā Harbour, Tauranga, Whakatane and Opotiki
- The West Coast of the South Island from Farewell spit to Milford Sound including Westport, Greymouth and Hokitika
Advice for people in areas under threat:
- Stay off beaches and shore areas
- People on boats, liveboards and at marinas should leave their boats/vessels and move onto shore. Do not return to boats unless instructed by officials
- Move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, marinas, rivers and estuaries
- Do not go to the coast to watch the unusual wave activity as there may be dangerous and unpredictable surges
- There is no need to evacuate other areas unless directly advised by local civil defence authorities
- Listen to local civil defence authorities and follow any instructions and share this information with family, neighbours and friends
RNZ Pacific senior reporter Walter Zweifel said the warning broadcast for New Caledonia on RRB, a commercial radio station, applied to all islands, with people being asked to evacuate coastal areas for higher ground.
Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department issued the following statement: “An earthquake of this size has the potential to cause destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours.
“The National Disaster Management Office advises people over all Vanuatu group to take appropriate action and precautionary measures upon receiving this advisory. This includes immediate evacuation from coastal areas to higher grounds.”