Thursday, 7 July 2011

Magnitude-7.6 quake shakes Kermadec Islands

Earthquake Location

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The eight scientists and staff based at the remote Kermadec Islands in the Pacific Ocean are unharmed after a powerful magnitude-7.6 earthquake struck this morning.

Agencies in the South Pacific this morning also canceled earlier tsunami warnings, saying the danger has now passed.

World Location

Department of Conservation spokesman Nick Hirst said that the four scientists and four volunteers on Raoul Island were shaken but unharmed, and their facilities undamaged. Hirst said a big part of the agency's job on the islands are to eradicate weeds and animal pests to preserve native species.

The volcanic Kermadec Island peaks are a remote outpost that are generally uninhabited aside from a weather station and a hostel for visiting New Zealand scientists and staff.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the quake struck at 7:03 a.m. Thursday (1903 GMT Wednesday), was 29.8 miles (48 kilometers) deep, and measured magnitude-7.6.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, a U.S. agency, at first issued a warning for possible tsunami damage in the Kermadecs, Tonga and New Zealand but later canceled the warning. It said a tsunami measured at 2.2 feet (0.68 meters) was measured at Raoul Island.


The Kermadecs are about 570 miles (920 kilometers) south of Tonga, the nearest major island, and are 736 miles (1185 kilometers) northeast of Auckland, New Zealand.

New Zealand's Civil Defense office also canceled an earlier tsunami warning, although cautioned that for the next 24 hours "people should exercise caution and discretion before entering the water or going out in small boats in all parts of New Zealand."

Marine alert remains in place following tsunami reprieve

A TSUNAMI warning generated after this morning’s big earthquake near the Kermadec Island created a few ripples in this district, but not of the watery kind.

The Gisborne Civil Defence and Emergency Management office was activated early this morning and Civil Defence personnel were on the ground in the East Cape area where a first wave was expected shortly before 9am.

The warning was cancelled at 9.15, but a marine alert remains in place and people are asked to exercise caution around beaches, rivers and on the water for the next 24 hours.

A large log ship was put out to sea in the face of the marine warning as part of Eastland Port standard practice in the event of a warning.

“At the time we believed we could get up to a metre of surge but as it turns out, our equipment hasn’t recorded anything of significance,” said port manager Andrew Gaddum.

The warning served as another good exercise for the port, he said.

The warning also triggered a flurry of tweets, texts and toll calls during the morning rush hour.

Gisborne’s coastal schools opened as usual but some parents kept around 15 children home from Wainui Beach School until all danger had passed. School principal Nolian Andrew said some parents rang the school advising they would keep them until 10am.

“In the event of a tsunami warning, we would assemble all the children on the side of State Highway 35.”

Wainui Beach School is a Civil Defence Station.

At Awapuni School things were running as usual.

In the city centre, the Community Childcare Centre, on the Taruheru riverbank, stayed closed until after 8.30am when the warning was cancelled, causing minor disruptions for parents with an early start.

Manager Wendy Ure left a sign on the door for parents that read, “Tsunami Warning” as she and her staff headed home to get more information.

“There were only three teachers on site and we had information that there had been a tsunami warning so I made the call.”

Mrs Ure reopened the centre when Civil Defence Centre told them there was no threat to land.

“I’ve been busy calling parents who were here at 8am telling them that we are open again. I would like to congratulate the GDC for how they handled it.”

A few people also headed to higher ground and vantage points such as Kaiti Hill — some armed with binoculars. They included a group of Chilean people who expressed fears for their lives.

But crowds on hilltops were not to the extent of previous alerts, which almost caused traffic gridlock on hilltop roads.

Further up the coast at Tokomaru Bay, Heni Wilcox said the first tsunami had been and gone but she had not noticed even a ripple on the beach, which is right outside her window.

She said there had been little activity around the beach this morning, with people taking a business as usual approach.

By 9.30am the surge was expected to be 20cm high.

The earthquake which triggered the tsunami warning was confirmed as being 7.6 on the Richter scale, centred 170 km east of Raoul Island in the Kermadec trench, at a depth of 20 kilometres.

It was felt at scattered locations between Gisborne and Christchurch.