A small tsunami causing unpredictable currents and surges is predicted to reach Fiordland and the Southland coast, including Milford Sound and Deep Cove, around 8pm tonight following a magnitude 8 earthquake near Solomon Island this afternoon.
Emergency Management Southland said modelling by the national expert tsunami panel suggested the tsunami was likely to be between 20cm and 1 metre high and should not cause damage on the shore.
However, there could be significant disturbance to currents and tides, so boat operators are being warned to be on alert and the public is urged to stay well away from inlets, beaches and rocky shores.
Manager Neil Cruickshank said that historical experience and modelling suggested that the largest waves would be anything up to 2-8 hours after the first arrivals. People are advised to:
1. Stay out of the water (sea, rivers and estuaries, including boating activities)
2. Stay off beaches and shore areas
3. Do not go sightseeing
4. Share this information with family, neighbours and friends
5. Listen to the radio and/or TV for updates
6. Follow instructions of local civil defence authorities
Mr Cruickshank said that even though the modelling showed that the tsunami would not be big enough to cause damage on the shore, Emergency Southland had used the alert to test local civil defence arrangements for responding quickly to a tsunami.
"Emergencies occur at any time, and without warning, and we have to be able to mount an effective response even on public holidays or in the middle of the night," he said.
Emergency Management Southland uses a range of methods to provide urgent information to the public. Traditionally, civil defence had relied on radio stations to broadcast alerts, and radio was still an important channel for emergency information, but changes to local radio stations’ staffing meant that social media was often a more direct way of reaching people in a hurry.
Emergency Management used Twitter and Facebook as well as its website www.civildefencesouthland.govt.nz this afternoon.
"More people are using social media to share information with their family and friends, and we encourage people to sign up to our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter as an instant way of getting accurate local information about any emergency in Southland," Mr Cruickshank said.
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