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Tsunami ‘hits’ Germany before New Zealand

Sep 30th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

International journalism student SABRINA DANKEL got a mysterious text message early today. She explains:

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SAMOA AWASH: A main road in the downtown area of Fagatogo, is seen flooded by water from a tsunami located in the main town area in American Samoa. STUFF PICTURE

I was probably one of the first people in New Zealand to know about today’s tsunami – and  I heard about it from a friend in Germany.

It was shortly before 7am when a text on my cellphone woke me, saying: “Saw on TV there’s tsunami warning for NZ. Are you ok?”

Deep asleep on the third day of my holidays, I did not bother to reply – and got a second text: “Oh my God, I am SO worried about you! Please reply immediately as soon as you read this!”

So I wrote back and told her I had been fine until she woke me up and that I had no clue what she was going on about.

Around the same time, Reuters twittered about the 33km deep, earthquake that shook the ocean southwest of American Samoa and measured 8.3 on the Richter scale.

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Emergency Management Trainer Sharyn Devereux-Blum (right) with Whitireia Staff

The next tweets from Reuters and then CNN told about the tsunami and the emergency warnings.

A little later, the story also appeared on the Twitter page of the German TV channel ZDF, where my friend must have seen the news.

The centre of the earthquake was 185 km east-north-east of Tonga, 205km south of the Samoan capital of Apia and 2685km northeast of Auckland.

Authorities spoke out tsunami warnings for the whole Samoan region, the United States and for Australasia.

The number of people killed in the tsunami in US Samoa is estimated to reach the 100 mark, but has not been officially confirmed yet.

During the morning, warnings for New Zealand were gradually downgraded and after the first wave hit the country’s shores around 11am – with a height of only 40cm – the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii cancelled the warnings completely.

On the Beehive website, the Government said it was ready to assist Samoa and the wider Pacific Region and provided help phone lines people could call if concerned about the safety of non-New Zealand relatives in Samoa.

At Whitireia Community Polytechnic, emails were sent out to staff, warning about the possibility of a tsunami and preparing staff to evacuate.

Emergency Management trainer Sharyn Devereux-Blum is currently doing a course with Whitireia staff at Wellington city campus.

She says in emergency situations like this, it is important staff are prepared to work as a team and know what to do.

“It’s important for them to be ready just to kick into action. When an emergency occurs they can look after people on their campus for three to five days.”

What happened to me this morning when I got the text is very common in emergency situations, especially because of the numerous ways of communication via the internet, Sharyn says.

See news coverage on STUFF>

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is a graduate from Whitireia Journalism School, now working for a rock magazine in London.
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