The force of nature

March 31st, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

This is amazing footage, from the Daily Telegraph:

The footage shows the devastation wrought to the fishing community of Kesennuma by a 33ft tsunami triggered by Japan’s strongest ever earthquake.

The port, around 300 miles north-east of Tokyo and formerly home to 74,000 people, was left in ruins after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck on on 11 March 2011.

You really need to watch this. At first things don’t look too bad as the first wave hits and a few cars start floating away. But as the water volume increase and increases it turns into an unstoppable force which rips buildings apart.

Sea Shepherd’s Watson says tsunami was divine punishment

March 16th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

If Sea Shepherd has any remaining supporters, perhaps this might make them reconsider. Paul Watson posted on Facebook how the tsunami is the fearful wrath of Neptune. Or in other words, how the Japanese deserved to die in the tsunami because they hunt whales.


Neptune’s voice rolled like thunder thru the sky
Angrily he smote the deep seabed floor
From the shore echoed mankind’s mournful cry
……The sea rose up and struck fast for the shore

From out of the East with the rising sun
The seas fearful wrath burst upon the land
With little time to prepare or to run
Against a power no human can stand

Its just as disgusting as the moron who blamed the Christchurch earthquake on gay ski week. Except the latter was an anonymous nobody while the former was said by the head of Sea Shepherd.

Various thoughts on Japan

March 13th, 2011 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

AP reports:

An explosion shattered a building housing a nuclear reactor yesterday, amid fears of a meltdown, while across wide swaths of northeastern Japan officials are searching for thousands of people missing more than a day after a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The confirmed death toll from Friday’s twin disasters was 686, but the government’s chief spokesman said it could climb enormously

AFP is reporting that 9,500 people are unaccounted for in one town alone, Minamisoma. …

The scale of destruction was not yet known, but there were grim signs that the death toll could soar. One report said four whole trains had disappeared Friday and still not been located. Others said 9,500 people in one coastal town were unaccounted for and that at least 200 bodies had washed ashore elsewhere.

Who knows when it will end. I must say that over the last coupel of days I am glad NZ is nuclear free. I know the reacter hasn’t actually leaked, but still nuclear reactors on fire is a problem you can do without in a disaster.

Of course in some countries nuclear power is a necessity – they don’t have our access to hydropower and the like.

Despite the scale of the tragedy, Japan is well used to disasters like these. Was interesting to listen to a TVNZ report with Kiwi Cole Cameron in Japan. The majority of people are just carrying on with business.

It seems there is little loss of life from the earthquake itself despite being a massive 8.9. The tsunami is what has been so lethal.

Editorials 2 March 2010

March 2nd, 2010 at 2:33 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reviews the tsunami alerts:

Civil Defence has done better this time. On Sunday morning, the organisation did not seem asleep on the job, as it did on the morning of the Samoan earthquake last year.

This time, the organisation could have been quicker to issue a tsunami alert on Saturday night. An hour after Chile was shaken by the magnitude 8.8 earthquake, Civil Defence was discounting the risk of tidal waves, but by midnight it was warning otherwise.

From sensors in the sea we learn the magnitude of a wave and the projected direction and distance it will travel. These are low and long volumes of water and their modest height is no indication of their destructive potential. Doubtless their coastal impact, or lack of it, depends partly on the contours of the seabed and shore that they strike, but surely more could be predicted from mid-ocean.

Why, for example, did the Chilean tsunami arrive with more force on the coast of Japan, twice as far from the epicentre as New Zealand? Plainly nowhere around the vast Pacific is immune to the wash from offshore earthquakes on its fiery perimeter.

A lot of people mistake the size of a tsunami for not being destructive. Anything that travels at 800 km/hr can be lethal – even if only 50 cm tall.

The Dom Post discusses respect for the law:

However, the growth in the number of attacks on police must be checked. In 2000, some 216 officers were attacked in the line of duty. Last year the number was 412.

When officers such as Mr Connolly attend a domestic dispute, respond to an emergency call, or step in to break up a fight, they are acting on behalf of the community. If the job becomes too dangerous, honourable, conscientious individuals will decide it is not worth the risk.

The community has to find some way to instil in the young a greater respect for the law and those who enforce it. Otherwise we will all be worse off. As Mr O’Connor has said: “An assault on police officers is more than an assault on the individual, it’s an assault on the security of society.” Parents of the lawless should bear that in mind.

And The Press also talks tsunamis:

After a powerful earthquake struck near Samoa in late September last year, and raised fears that a tsunami might hit coastal regions of New Zealand, the response of Civil Defence authorities was roundly criticised. A subsequent report found that the Ministry of Civil Defence had underperformed, especially with respect to its public information management responsibilities.

This report, and the public criticism, appear to have had a salutary effect, as shown by the far more efficient Civil Defence response during the weekend to the threat of a tsunami after the devastating Chilean earthquake. But this improved performance does not mean that there are no lessons to be learned from the latest tsunami scare.

I agree Civil Defence had much better communications this time.

And the ODT also talks tsunamis:

National civil defence alerted media, and by 7am Radio New Zealand National, as one example, was broadcasting nationwide alerts and warnings, and newspapers, such as the Otago Daily Times, had posted information on their websites.

The coordination between authorities and media outlets was much improved on that of a mere five months ago in the aftermath of the Samoan earthquake and the subsequent devastating tsunami.

So all around the consensus is an improved response.

The Chile tsunami

February 28th, 2010 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

The earthquake in Chile was an 8.8 – the 7th = strongest earthquake ever recorded. It was 500 times the strength of the Haiti quake, which shows how vital strong buildings are in mitigating effects – so far only 140 dead.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive text messages from Civil Defence alerting me to the tsunami advisories. I got them by e-mail also, but text messaging is far more effective as you tend to check a text immediately.

Civil Defence also now have a Twitter account, and Twitter is a very good medium for such announcements as people can retweet them quickly. Well worth people with Twitter subscribing.

The website has the latest advisory. The only area facing possible evacuation was Banks Peninsula.

How did Civil Defence communications do?

October 1st, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

As I blogged in July, I attended a Civil Defence briefing earlier this year on how their Tsunami warning system works, so I figure it is worth reviewing what went well, and not so well.

Timeliness – a big tick for this one. The advisory was released well before the potential tsunami was due to hit NZ.

Media – NZ Herald and Stuff websites carried the info, as did Breakfast TV. Seemed to do well keeping media informed.

Website – Not so good here. The main Civil Defence website did say an advisory had been issued, but nowhere on the site could you actually get the full details of it. The media do not always get things absolutely correct, and people should be able to go to authoritative sources.

Radio – people were told to listen to their radios for any local evacuation instructions. I think at some stage this strategy may have to be revisited. With ipods, more and more people do not have or listen to the radio. To get through to younger people especially, the Internet and text messaging is going to be more relevant.

Twitter – Twitter was great as a way to alert people, and that is where I first heard about it. I suggested to Civil Defence that they should look at having an official Twitter account as it would have been good for people to be able to retweet an official advisory rather than second hand reports.

E-mail – I received the warning threat by e-mail at 8.06 am. That was 90 minutes before the first wave was due, so pretty good. Only complaint is the e-mail address they came from was and that doesn’t look too official. Would be better for it to come from a address.

Overall pretty good effort I though, as in by 0945when the first wave might hit, I would have thought most of the country was aware of the advisory.

Death Toll thought to be 100

September 30th, 2009 at 11:09 pm by David Farrar

40 dead was bad enough, but the death toll in Samoa, and to a degree Tonga,  is now thought to be 100.

Around 15,000 are homeless, at least temporarily.

Samoa has a population of 179,000 so if this was NZ it is would be the equivalent of around 2,410 dead and 360,000 needing shelter.

You can donate online to the NZ Red Cross appeal here.


September 30th, 2009 at 3:49 pm by David Farrar


From Murray.

Sadly while no bad effects in NZ, many Samoan New Zealanders will have lost loved ones, with 39 dead in Samoa.

Tsunami Warning

September 30th, 2009 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

Civil Defence has issues a rare tsunami warning. Stuff reports details:

A tsunami is radiating across the South Pacific following a massive 8.3 magnitude earthquake near Samoa and will hit New Zealand later today. …

The Hawaii center’s updated timings for the arrival of a tsunami in New Zealand are:

East Cape at 9.44am

Gisborne 10am

North Cape 10.12 am

Napier 10.40 am

Wellington 10.50 am

Auckland (east coast) 11.12 am

Auckland (west) 11.39 am

Lyttelton 11.55am

New Plymouth 12.17pm

Nelson 12.23 pm

Dunedin 12.31 pm

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said there was a tsunami risk to New Zealand from the earthquake.

The ministry has issued a tsunami warning for New Zealand coasts.

Ministry director John Hamilton said that the ministry had alerted the country’s regional Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) groups, police, fire service, Ministry of Health, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and other government agencies.

The ministry has activated the National Crisis Management Centre and was co-ordinating central government response.

The CDEM sector was activating its emergency plans.

Regional CDEM groups were working urgently with local authorities, local emergency services and local media to warn and if necessary evacuate coastal areas at risk.

Detailed evacuation advice would come from local authorities and local emergency services.

If told to evacuate people should, where possible, take a radio and cell phone with them, along with essential items such as glasses, hearing aid and medicines.

Note that so far there is no advice to evacuate.

Tumeke on Tsunami Twitters

July 20th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Last week Tumeke blogged a snapshot of all the twitterings about a a possible tsunami threat to New Zealand.


Now by coincidence I know a little something about tsunami warnings. Not because I am omniscient, but because I attended a briefing for media organisations a couple of months ago by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management. And I have been waiting for an opportune moment to share my learnings.

You can read for yourself the handout we got at the briefing.  The key thing for me is this:

Basically you can almost ignore any warnings that comes from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. Generally the warnings they generate are automated. They are not saying there is a tsunami, let alone it may hit NZ. A warning gets generated on fixed criteria, such as an earthquake of a certain maginute within a particular area. The PTWC warnings are not designed for the general public, but for government agencies.

The MCDEM gets notified of any PTWC warning, plus receives its own data from Geonet. They then decide what risk, if any there is to NZ.  Most of the time there is none. They will then issue one of three statements:

  1. No tsunami threat to NZ
  2. Potential tsunami threat to NZ
  3. Tsunami warning – threat to NZ

So unless the warning has come from MCDEM, it is just an automatically generated warning from PTWC. NZ gets around one of these a month, and none have ever eventuated in the last few decades.

However there may be times that a tsunami is generated locally. Or in other words it will hit within 30 to 60 minutes, not hours. If one is generated locally, then it may hit before an official warning is possible. These are the warning signs for people in coastal areas:

  1. experience a strong earthquake (it was hard to stand up)
  2. experience a weak earthquake lasting a minute or more
  3. observe strange sea behaviour, such as the sea level suddenly rising and falling
  4. hear the sea making loud and unusual noises or roaring like a jet engine

If you observe this, move inland and to higher ground promptly.

I suggested to MCDEM that they should look at having an official Twitter account. Twitter can pass on an official warning quicker than almost any other medium through retweeting. And I think many would subscribe to such a Twitter account – even if it very rarely will have anything to say. They seemed to think this was a good idea, and I got the impression it may happen at some stage. It may also have the benefit of people not over-reacting to PTWC alerts.