Tsunami warning issued for NZ after massive Chile quake

Emergency services are bracing for a potentially lethal tsunami on the East Coast of New Zealand after today’s 8.3 quake in Chile.

The tsunami, if it eventuates, will strike after midnight, first on East Cape near Gisborne and then rapidly along the rest of the exposed eastern seaboard of both islands.

Back in the 1860s, a Chilean earthquake caused a seven metre tsunami to hit New Zealand, as reported in the book “Our Stories”:

On Saturday morning last [15 August 1868] the inhabitants of the various bays of the Peninsula were aroused at an early hour by an extraordinary irruption of the sea, rolling with fearful force up the various bays and tidal rivers, carrying away bridges, fences and everything else obstructing its course. There was no apparent agitation of the ocean, the sea appeared perfectly calm, and the tide receded to an extraordinary distance.

The very rapid flow and ebb at very irregular intervals, varying from fifteen minutes to an hour, continued throughout the day, and were such as had never been witnessed here before. The highest rise occurred about the time of high water, and it was estimated at not less than twenty-five feet from the lowest to the highest level of the water during the time the phenomenon continued.

In Okain Bay at two miles distance from the sea [shore], the water rose over the top of the fences, completely inundating the lower portions of the locality. Very considerable damage has been done to both public and private property, and unfortunately many thousand feet of timber and posts and rails, &c., have been irrecoverably washed away. In several cases the inhabitants had to leave their homes, and took refuge in the hills. In one or two cases the houses were destroyed or washed away. A very distinct shock of earthquake was felt during the forenoon on Monday.

The Tidal Wave In Little Akaloa

The tidal wave seems to have done considerable damage in Little Akaloa. Mr H. A. Williams, who came up to Lyttelton on Tuesday last, states that he heard a noise to seaward as if it was blowing very hard, which commenced at two a.m., but took little notice of it till about half-past five, when the tide began gradually to rise much higher than usual, and at this time the water had risen over the rill of Mr Finlay’s house, which is situated over 200 yards from ordinary high water mark.

The water then rushed in and out the creek at a terrific rate, gradually increasing in height till about quarter to twelve, when it was at its highest. The water then receded and left the harbour dry halfway across. The ketch Straggler, belonging to Mr Pavitt, which had just been placed on the blocks for repairing, was repeatedly washed up and down the creek, having been carried over the corner of a paddock, where, if she had been left it would have been impossible to have launched her.

Mr Mclntosh’s house (a six or seven-roomed one), was lifted up bodily several inches, and considerable damage was done to the furniture. Two bridges across the creek were washed away; one was carried up
into a paddock, and the other was carried out to sea. A little craft called the Gipsy ran into Lavereaux bay and dropped anchor. No sooner was the anchor down than she was left high and dry.

The coast around Little Akaloa is strewn with timber of every description. Mr Samuel Graham, a resident in Little Akaloa, writes his father in Lyttelton to the effect that early in the morning he heard a rumbling noise, and ran out of the house to warn his brother-in-law next door, and the two families had barely time to escape from their houses. They were compelled to seek shelter with their more fortunate neighbours, from whom they experienced the utmost kindness and attention.

They did not return to their homes till Sunday morning. Mr Henry Mclntosh has sustained damage to the extent of fully £100, in garden, fencing and timber.

In fact, the 25 foot (seven metre) tsunami that struck two miles inland on Banks Peninsula was part of a devastating series of waves that hit most of New Zealand that day. This report from the Chatham Islands…” (rest of the story is in Our Stories)

The full text of today’s New Zealand government tsunami alert is below:

Tsunami warning marine and beach threat
Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye says following the 8.3 earthquake in Chile, it’s important people listen to national warnings issued in New Zealand by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM).


“In these situations, a national tsunami panel, which includes a team of experts, advises MCDEM on any potential threat to New Zealand.


“In the last couple of hours there have been several meetings of the panel, and a tsunami warning marine and beach threat has been issued for East Cape, Chatham Islands, Coromandel and Banks Peninsula.”


People in these areas should follow this advice:

  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.


“It’s important people follow messages issued by MCDEM and not overseas warning centres, as MCDEM provide official warnings and information for New Zealand.


“You can keep up to date via the radio and TV, or by going to www.civildefence.govt.nz.


“The National Crisis Management Centre in Wellington has been activated to monitor this situation, and I’m receiving regular briefings.


“The tsunami warning remains in place until a cancellation message is issued by MCDEM.


“As reports come through of the potential impact of the earthquake in Chile, our thoughts are with everyone affected.”