Hawkes Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group

We get a lot of earthquakes - when the next big one comes, will you know what to do?
We get a lot of earthquakes - when the next big one comes, will you know what to do?

What would you do if a long or strong earthquake hit Hawke’s Bay right now?

It’s Get Ready Week and Hawke’s Bay people are being urged to spend some time getting to know their natural warning signs and safe evacuation routes to higher ground or inland should a big earthquake hit that could trigger a tsunami.

Hawke’s Bay’s position on the Pacific Ocean means there are risks of tsunami from local, regional and distant sources. It is recognised the East Coast of New Zealand has the high risk in the country.

Natural Warning Signs

If you are near the coast and experience any of the following:

Feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that last a minute or more
See a sudden rise or fall in sea level
Hear loud and unusual noises from the sea

If you experience any of these warnings move immediately to the nearest higher ground, or as far inland as you can and stay there.

Top tips for staying safe and being prepared

What to do
Be prepared for a tsunami Understand the tsunami risks in the areas where you live, work and play in.  It is vital to be prepared. If you live by the coast, keep an emergency grab bag in case you need to make a dash in the middle of the night.
Keep it packed with enough essentials for a few days - a torch, climate-appropriate clothing, some food, water a small radio, and perhaps a small first aid kit with extra medications if essential. But keep it light and easy to carry.
Know the natural warning signs; run up the hill or inland This is the best advice in regard to tsunami safety. If the natural warning signs indicate that a tsunami may impact your area, don't delay in getting to safety.
Tsunamis can strike very quickly following an earthquake – so the quicker, and higher, you can get up a hill or inland the better. And if you have a lighter grab bag, you will travel faster on foot.
And stay there Tsunamis tend not to strike just once, there are usually several cycles of a tsunami that occur over many hours, sometimes lasting days. If you go to the coast too early, you could get caught up in a second or third wave.
So it's important to keep high and dry for a long time. Wait until the official all-clear is given by Civil Defence before you return to evacuated areas.  Listen to your radio.
Do not wait for official warnings In overseas events, people waited for official warnings which took time to eventuate, or did not happen because the system was damaged by the earthquake.  The natural signals are you best and fastest warning to evacuate and get to safety.

Know your area It is vital to know not only the tsunami history of the area you live in, but also the geography. Where are the closest high ground areas?  What are routes to them? Think about travelling on foot or bike.  There are useful maps and information on this site.


These maps, north and south show the areas in Hawke's Bay that could be inundated depending upon the tsunami source of an event. Plan to evacuate these areas after a long or strong earthquake. 

IMPORTANT - These are overview maps only and are not specific enough to predict impact on your individual property.

Learn more about tsunami risks in Hawke’s Bay and find maps for specific areas.

Global tsunami facts

Because of seismic and volcanic activity tectonic plate boundaries along the Pacific Ring of Fire, tsunamis occur most frequently in the Pacific Ocean, but are a worldwide natural phenomena.

The tallest tsunami ever recorded was the 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami in Alaska, which had a record height of 524 metres.

The deadliest tsunami in recorded history was the 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed almost 230,000 people in 11 countries across the Indian Ocean.

The world’s three worst tsunamis in terms of damage are:

  1. Sumatra, Indonesia - 26 December 2004 Around 230,000 people were reported dead in the Sumatra tsunami, with an estimated US$10 billion in damage. A 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, 30 kilometres under the seafloor caused the tsunami. When it hit the coast it was close to 50 metres high and spread around five kilometres inland near Meubolah, Sumatra. This tsunami is the most widely recorded, with reports of a rise in wave heights from as far afield as America, the United Kingdom and Antarctica. 
  2. North Pacific Coast, Japan - 11 March 2011 A powerful tsunami travelling 800km per hour with 10 metre high waves swept over the east coast of Japan, killing more than 18,000 people. The tsunami was caused by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake 24.4 kilometres deep. Approximately 452,000 people were relocated to shelters. The violent shaking resulted in a nuclear emergency, in which the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began leaking radioactive steam. There was an estimated damage bill of $235 billion.
  3. Lisbon, Portugal - 1 November 1755 A magnitude 8.5 earthquake caused a series of three waves up to 30 metres high to strike various towns along the west coast of Portugal and southern Spain. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed 60,000 in Portugal, Morocco and Spain.
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