28 Feb 2010

NZ tsunami advisory in place overnight

8:57 pm on 28 February 2010

A tsunami advisory for New Zealand will remain in place overnight because of the ongoing threat from tidal surges in some places.

A full-scale alert was issued just before midnight on Saturday after a 8.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile, which killed over 300 people.

The warning was downgraded to an advisory at 3pm.

The National Crisis Management Centre in the Beehive will reopen at 7.30am on Monday when the advisory will be reviewed.

Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management spokesperson Tony Wallace says the Chatham Islands and Banks Peninsula should still be prepared for waves of up to three metres.

Strong currents and tidal surges are expected to continue elsewhere.

Mr Wallace says people should still stay away from beaches and not take boats out even though the tsunami warning has been downgraded to an advisory.

Response to tsunami alert

There were evacuations in some east coast areas of both the North and South Islands on Sunday.

Tidal surges of up to 1.5 metres reached the Chatham Islands on Sunday morning.

Some residents and visitors to the main island, were earlier evacuated to a marae.

The biggest surge was around Pitt Island, the second largest island in the group.

Water levels fell in Gisborne harbour and at Waikanae beach.

Gisborne Controller Jon Davies told Morning Report there had been a sudden drop of up to 1 metre in places.

Other surges were recorded at the port of Napier: about a dozen in 2.5 hours. Ships in the port were ordered to sea. A similar order was issued to shipping in Auckland.

Water surged at Akaroa on Banks Peninsula.

Civil Defence headquarters in Wellington say surges were recorded at 13 coastal locations.

They ranged from 30cm in East Cape, Napier, Castlepoint, Tauranga and North Cape to 40cm in Gisborne.

No reports of NZ casualties in Chile

There are no reports of any New Zealanders being among the casualties in Chile.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says there are about 200 New Zealanders there and it has managed to confirm that 80 of them are safe.

Prime Minister John Key has expressed sympathy to the government and people of Chile following the earthquake.

Mr Key says he's shocked by the devastation in Chile and the New Zealand Government is prepared to provide assistance should it be requested.

He says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the New Zealand Embassy in Santiago are trying to account for New Zealanders in Chile, but work is being hampered by the break-down in telecommunications.

Mr Key says anyone who cannot contact friends or family in the country should call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 0800 432 111.

The Chilean Ambassador to New Zealand says the embassy is trying to set up a phone number in Santiago that the local Chilean community can call to get information.

Luis Lilla says the collapse of the telecommunications system has made it difficult for Chileans in New Zealand trying to get in contact with relatives and he's received a number of concerned phone calls.