For many hours, people in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands stared at the sea in fear: Was a huge tsunami rolling towards them? Ultimately there were only a few waves. The region is breathing a sigh of relief.
Wellington – a great relief in New Zealand and on several Pacific islands: all tsunami warnings issued for the region have been canceled in the wake of several very severe marine earthquakes.
After three earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 7, New Zealand authorities evacuated large parts of the coast. Tens of thousands of people on the North Island who lived near the sea were required to go to remote or highland areas. Hours later, the hoped-for news came: The Civil Defense said that the largest waves had passed.
The strongest earthquake, with a magnitude of 8.1, occurred on Friday morning (local time) near the Kermadec Islands, 800 kilometers northeast of the North Island of New Zealand. Shortly afterwards, it was followed by another one with a force of 7.4 in the same area. Hours earlier, 7.1-magnitude tremors struck off New Zealand’s coast in the middle of the night. The center was only about 100 kilometers off the coast of the Gisborne region.
New Zealand is located on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire and is the most active geological region on Earth. Indonesia also includes the region, where a magnitude 9.1 earthquake in 2004 triggered a series of devastating tsunamis. Around 230,000 people have died worldwide. However, the waves that reached Tucumaru Bay near Gisborne on Friday were hardly a threat in the end.
Experts initially feared the worst. Australian 9News reported “one of the strongest earthquakes in the South Pacific in recent history”. The Civil Defense also warned of strong and unusual currents and unexpected torrents. People in the affected areas were told not to go to water under any circumstances.
The tsunami warning has also been applied to archipelagos such as the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. However, there were only minor waves as a result of the earthquake. The Kermadec Islands, where the two largest earthquakes occurred, is part of New Zealand but hundreds of kilometers off the coast.
“This was an important event for all Aotearoa (Maori name for New Zealand),” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “People can go home now. But I think we are saying this with caution – because although there are no restrictions on going to the beach, please be careful.”
It wasn’t until February that New Zealand thought of the victims of the severe Christchurch earthquake ten years ago. On February 22, 2011, 185 people were killed in the largest city on the South Island. Thousands were injured and many buildings destroyed. The quake measured 6.2 magnitude.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210304-99-694431 / 4