• Civil Defence says marine and beach threat for Hawke's Bay lifted

Civil Defence says marine and beach threat for Hawke's Bay lifted

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management says the marine and beach threat for Hawke's Bay has been cancelled by the National Emergency Management Agency.

But Group Controller Ian Macdonald is reminding people to continue to take care around the region's waterways.

"If you are near the sea stay out of the water, off beaches and shore areas, and away from harbours, rivers and estuaries until told otherwise. We can still expect unusual currents and surges over several hours."

Earlier Civil Defence told people who had been evacuated from the red zones in Hawke's Bay that they could return home.

Mr Macdonald says the golden rule applies - if people are in a coastal area and feel a long or strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or lasts longer than a minute, they should move immediately to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible.

"If it's long and strong get gone. I'm encouraging people to make their own decision to self-evacuate - do not wait to read about it on social media - if you live in an evacuation zone and feel a long strong earthquake you need to move quickly," he says.

Three large earthquakes struck offshore New Zealand this morning all triggering tsunami alerts. The first was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck at 2.27am - 105km east of Te Araroa at a depth of 90km.

GNS received over 52,000 felt reports, easily breaking the last record holder, a M5.8 earthquake offshore Levin in 2020, which had 36,867.

This was then followed a few hours later by a magnitude 7.4 earthquake that struck at 6.41am, and an 8.0 magnitude that struck at 8.28 north-east of New Zealand near the Kermadec Islands.

Hundreds in the region self-evacuated in the early hours and more than 500 people moved to the top of Napier's Bluff Hill on Friday afternoon.

After the third large earthquake, Civil Defence issued a beach and marine threat for Hawke's Bay and asked everyone in the tsunami red-zone to evacuate to higher ground.

Coastal communities across New Zealand were advised to evacuate, including communities lying in the ‘red zone’ areas of Hawke’s Bay which included the communities of Pourerere, Kairakau, Managakuri, Aramoana, Blackhead, Whangaehu, Te Paerahi and parts of Porangahau residing in the red zone. 

These were patrolled by emergency services to ensure people stayed out of the water. 

Central Hawke's Bay District Council said community networks and contractors on the ground assisted with evacuations and provided safety guidance to residents and visitors while steering people away from the beach.

Following the advice from the HB CDEM Group, Napier Port was evacuated to the top of Bluff Hill just after 10am. Shipping and all operations were put on hold.

Container operations at the port were initially stopped around 3am, but had resumed as normal by 7am prior to the second and third earthquakes.

By 1.45pm, port workers had been allowed to leave Bluff Hill and had resumed operations by 2pm. 

The evacuation comes just six months after the Napier Port conducted a tsunami evacuation exercise back in September.

Napier Port Earthquake Preparedness and Tsunami Evacuation Exercise in September 2020. Video/Napier Port

Norah Nguyen, and her family, including three young children, heeded the advice and evacuated for the second time in less than 10 hours. 

Based in Onekawa, they stationed themselves on Lighthouse Road, about 300m away from the Bluff Hill Lookout, which was jam-packed with people and cars. 

They kept up-to-date with Civil Defence on Facebook. 

"We just kind of worried because we have babies and young kids as well so we just picked them up from school and kindergarten and came straight here," Nguyen said at the time. 

At 1.30pm, they headed home thanks to the advice of Civil Defence. 

Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Alex Walker acknowledged and thanked the communities, and contractors on the ground, for their "swift response and cooperation" this morning in evacuating the red zone coastal areas.

"The threat of tsunami should always be treated as serious and our aim was to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our communities.

“If you live on the coast you need to check if you are located in one of the red zones and be prepared to evacuate in the event of a tsunami threat in the future. Remember, if it is long and strong, get gone – don’t wait for official warning on this, act immediately.”

People can check if they are in a tsunami evacuation zone using this link https://www.hbemergency.govt.nz/hazards/tsunami/