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Monday, 25 March 2019 03:29 pm

Tsunami warning triggers relaxed response

Feb 28th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

UNDETERED: Beachgoers out for a casual Sunday stroll despite tsunami threat

UNDETERRED: Beachgoers out for a Sunday stroll at Scorching Bay despite threat of a tsunami.

STORY: Tasha Black, Kylie Klein-Nixon, Liz Proctor

PHOTOS: Kylie Klein-Nixon, Jonathan Tringham, Vaughan Elder, Jim Tucker

VIDEO: Tasha Black

COOK Strait ferries were disrupted, boat ramps were closed and police patrolled the coastline around Wellington early today warning people away from beaches and rivers as New Zealand faced another tsunami alert.

The effects were minimal in the Capital, although some witnesses reported unusual tides and brown surges, effects of a massive earthquake in Chile that triggered tsunami threats around the Pacific.

FIRST RESPONSE: Rural fire response officer Dave Phillips: "We're here just in case."

FIRST RESPONSE: Rural fire response officer Dave Phillips: "We're here just in case."

Despite police, Civil Defence and surf club members clearing curious sightseers off beaches, the majority of people did not know or did not care about the tsunami dangers.

By midday, people were using the beaches as normal, despite warnings from the Civil Defence that further surges could follow.

Cook Strait ferries were diverted out through Queen Charlotte Sound to get and from Picton, after marine authorities decided the narrow Tory Channel route was too dangerous.

The 8am Bluebridge ferry from Picton arrived in Wellington at 11.55am instead of 11.30am.

CD1

QUICK RESPONSE: Civil defence on duty in Oriental Parade.

The Interislander was also running behind schedule. The Kaitaki left 15 minutes early at 8:10am in order to reach deep sea before the predicted first wave.

Interislander crew said they did not see a substantial wave out at sea.

Spokesperson Nigel Parry says deep sea is possibly the best place to be during a tsunami: “It’s quite likely that passengers wouldn’t even have noticed,” he said.

Oriental Parade 4

BEACH: People at Oriental Bay ignore warnings.

Rural Fire Force response officers were positioned along the beach at Petone in case the warning was upgraded and roads would need to be closed.

Cones were in place along Petone Esplanade from the mouth of the Hutt River to Nevis St to block off roads running down to the water.

By 12:40pm Hutt City Council spokesperson Caroline Wakelin said they were not planning any road closures but recommended people stay away from the beaches and the Hutt River.

Emergency services were also encouraging people to stay away from the beaches.

WAITING FOR THE WAVES: Wendy Jackson and the Pomona Family wait for tsunami waves

WAITING FOR WAVES: Wendy Jackson and the Pomona family wait for tsunami.

The Pomana family chose to ignore warnings and drove to Petone from Upper Hutt as their daughter Erin was in a dragon boating competition on the harbour.

Tracy Pomana said her husband saw the tsunami warning on TV just after 8am and was horrified. They drove to Petone at 9am.

Mrs Pomana said they saw the water moving out from the beach and had noticed the white peaks of the waves moving away from the shore.

She said they spoke to Erin who told them the boating competition was cancelled and they were being moved to higher ground at Frank Kitts Park in Wellington.

Wendy Jackson, manager of the Brick and Bottle bar on Petone Esplanade, said she was unconcerned about the tsunami warning.

“The last one didn’t come anywhere near us,” she said.

On Wellington’s southern coast, people walked their dogs along Lyall Bay beach as if nothing was wrong, and several people went swimming – until hauled ashore by surf club members.

JT Wavewatch 1People watching the beach from the hillside streets above Lyall Bay (left) thought they might have seen surges arrive from about 9.30am, but nobody could be sure.

The boat ramp near Breaker Bay was closed by Civil Defence to stop small boats being launched, leaving an unusually empty carpark there.

In Wellington city, Oriental Bay had fewer walkers than usual for a Sunday on the parade, with only one person walking on the beach.

A waterfront farmers’ market on Queens Wharf, however, was packed and street side car parks were full.

Tsunami Warning Sign

WARNING: An electronic sign on Oriental Parade.

Civil Defence warned that there could still be sudden, strong surges throughout the afternoon, but by 3pm were considering calling off the emergency warnings..

Adrian Prowse at the National Crisis Centre in the Beehive bunker described the tsunami as a gradually unfolding event.

“This could go on for many hours with a series of waves usually, or surges coming much later.”

He said the crisis centre is working closely with science advisors to monitor changes in the surges and along the coasts.

Changes were made to the status of the tsunami warning on the basis of information from national and international sensors.

“Obviously, we want to err on the side of caution rather than opening the beaches only to have two more waves or surges hit,” he said.

DESERTED: Petone beach empty of weekend walkers

DESERTED: An empty Petone beach.

Conflicting advice was given by emergency services at Petone beach.

While police officers patrolled the esplanade advising sightseers to leave the area, fire-fighters directly across the road were telling people the beach was safe to be on.

Despite the mixed messages, Petone Beach was relatively empty, although NewsWire spoke to a group of locals who deliberately went to the beach to see the waves.

The group was unconcerned about the tsunami dangers, saying they would run away if they saw a surge coming.

Oriental vaughan 1

PERFECT BEACH: Walkers on Oriental Bay.

The blasé attitude was apparent throughout the country.

Surfing rather than safety was the priority of Jake Maser, a resident at Wainui Beach near Gisborne.

The 25-year-old avoided police on the beach to catch some waves. He doubted the tsunami had any impact: “If it came, it wasn’t as big as they said.”

A surge of one metre struck the Chatham Islands at 7:35am, with a wave of 1.5 metres following at 7:52.

Smaller waves have hit other areas and rapidly retreating tides and brown surges have been reported.

JT Wavewatch 2

DANGER? WHAT DANGER? A lone swimmer at Lyall Bay at the height of the emergency.

JT Wavewatch 2a

PLEASE LEAVE: The man is warned to leave the water by a surf club member.

JT Wavewatch 1a

BUSINESS AS USUAL (ONE): A plane lands at Wellington Airport, with Lyall Bay walkers in the foreground (and below).JT Wavewatch 3

JT Wavewatch 7

JT Wavewatch 8

LANDING THE BIG ONE: People fish off the end of a breakwater near the airport.

JT Wavewatch 6BUSINESS AS USUAL (TWO): The hot dog stand at Lyall Bay open for business this morning.

JT Wavewatch 5FORE-WARNED: A man listens to tsunami warnings at Lyall Bay: “No point running.”

JT Wavewatch 9CLOSED OFF: Civil defence staff stop people using a South Coast boat ramp. Kids play on the rocks.

JT Wavewatch 11PERFECT MORNING: Brunch-munchers at Scorching Bay seem unworried.

JT Wavewatch 12PERFECT SEA: No dangers here, according to beachgoers at Scorching Bay.

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2 comments
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  1. Great photos guys. Very comprehensive coverage of Wellington!

    So, did anyone actually see any bigger-than-normal waves?

  2. You assume any of these people knew about the tsunami warnings. I walked around the bays from Balaena Bay to Mirimar that morning in perfect ignorance that anything was amiss. Not everyone is glued to their radio and newspaper, dickwad.

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