The New Zealand Herald reports that 500 Whangārei District Council staff and central city workers have now returned to offices in town after being given the all-clear.
Rob Forlong, the Whangārei District Council chief executive, said the move this morning to Whangārei Primary School – the council’s designated evacuation point – had gone well, with food and water supplied by the school, the Salvation Army and a local business owner.
Forlong said the council’s ongoing tsunami evacuation drills had borne fruit and those in Whangarei central city deserved praise for the ease of the operation.
There had been a steady stream of evacuees driving north past the school for the first 90 minutes after council staff arrived at the school, he said. “It was like rush hour.”
Asked by the Herald if he was relieved that Whangārei city had escaped tsunami damage, Forlong replied: “Oh shit yeah.”
Civil defence minister Kiri Allan has told NewstalkZB she is pleased that the threat level has been downgraded and thanks New Zealanders for their quick, calm response to three huge earthquakes in the space of hours. “I’ve been so incredibly impressed. … people did what they had to do.”
She says there has been no reports of damage but the government had not yet ruled it out. Tidal changes of up to 1m were still expected so people were advised to remain away from the water.
“If anyone was thinking if they could catch a cheeky wave or take advantage of the sea while not many other craft are out there, please don’t. Not today. We don’t want them to put their lives at risk.”
Allan says that it was right to err on the side of caution given the size of the three earthquakes and New Zealand’s coastal vulnerability. “Of course we are going to make prudent decision on that basis.”
The response would be reviewed on there always being room for improvement, Allan says.
In particular it seems likely that the government will face questions over the delivery of the civil defence text-messaging alert early this morning, which was received by some people in areas where there was judged to be a risk to life, but not others.
Norfolk Island was hit by tsunami wave of… 64cm, says Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology – though more are possible.
The new national advisory is for “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore”, meaning the flooding threat has passed.
Here is the latest alert from authorities.
GNS Science has advised that the largest waves have now passed, and therefore the threat level is now downgraded to a Beach and Marine threat for all areas which were previously under Land and Marine threat.
All people who evacuated can now return.
The advice remains, for all areas under Beach and Marine threat, to stay off beach and shore areas.
Largest waves have now passed
GNS Science has advised that the largest waves have now passed and the threat level has been downgraded. People who have been evacuated can now return home.
We remain in the “wait and see” stage, with the impact of the earthquake not registering uniformly on New Zealand’s shores.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the first waves were due to reach NZ at Lottin Point on the East Coast just before 10am this morning.
Since then, there have been anecdotal reports of unusual surges or sediment, higher or lower than usual water levels, and erratic movements of boats at anchor – but nothing damaging, or dangerous as yet.
Civil defence minister Kiri Allan has urged people to remain at higher ground, away from the coast even if there appears to be no threat.
Britomart station in Auckland is to close due to the possibility of flooding, Auckland Transport has advised. It is at this stage expected to reopen after high tide at 3pm.
All ferry services are on hold for now, too.
Aucklander Ben Ross paints a picture of the stakes: