CNN reports -- Tsunami warnings issued for Fiji and New Zealand after earthquake measuring a magnitude of about 8.0 shakes southern Pacific Ocean.
Oh dear, what a can of worms this opened up in our Civil Defence arrangements!
To start with, tsunamis are rare here. Apparently there is geological evidence that they have occurred, but despite our propensity for earthquakes I can't recall a single tsunami in my lifetime. Someone reported a tsunami in Gisborne in 1947 or so, but at the time I was living around the corner in Napier and I never even heard of it.
Then there was the classic case of the schoolteacher who took his class to the beach in Dunedin to see a tsunami reported to be coming from South America in the 1960s. Luckily, the tsunami was just a ripple by the time it got here.
Anyway, this time, our dear Civil Defence people alerted the news media in the wee small hours of the morning, but didn't alert anybody else except the emergency services. The reps. of northern hemisphere news people rang their offices which, of course, were fully functional and duly spread the news. NZers overseas picked it up and rang their families & friends, still in the wee small hours. The result was a panicy exodus, particularly in Gisborne, as people, often still in nightwear, fled to the nearby hills. Some even stopped to fuel their cars & pick up food & drink. As one CD man said later, why? You only have to go a kilometre inland or 35 metres uphill.
There was no warning to the general public, who were mostly sleeping in their beds and would have been drowned had there been a real tsunami.
The CD people rely on tide gauge movement to determine whether or not to issue a warning. This seems a little dodgy, given the lack of tide gauges between here & pretty well anywhere else, but is sensible in that tsunamis normally peter out well before they reach us. We have a sizeable continental shelf, and it absorbs a lot of wave energy.
So everyone is safe & sound, except the planners at Civil Defence.
We have no money; we must use our brains. -Ernest Rutherford.