New Caledonia. Fears and massive evacuations after a tsunami warning

More fear than harm. A tsunami warning was triggered on Friday morning in New Caledonia, New Zealand and Vanuatu, after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake near the Kermadec, uninhabited islands in the Pacific. Lhe dreaded wave did not finally break.

Tens of thousands of coastal residents of New Caledonia, but also New Zealand and Vanuatu fled the heights and inland on Friday after a series of powerful earthquakes that triggered tsunami warnings in throughout the Pacific region.

Evacuations to fallback sites

In New Caledonia, sirens howled in Nouméa and across the territory while civil security called on residents to move away from the sea as quickly as possible.

In French Polynesia, the alert was triggered late Thursday morning (around 23:00 GMT Thursday). In Moorea Maiao, school heads have been instructed to evacuate students “To fallback sites”, indicated the Facebook account of this town made up of two islands.

The alert was “Levied on all French territories in the Pacific” two hours after it was triggered, Foreign Minister Sébastien Lecornu tweeted around 2:25 a.m. (Paris time).

One meter waves on the island of Maré

The highest wave, one meter, occurred in New Caledonia on the island of Maré, in the archipelago of the Loyalty Islands, while on the island of Pines, in Yaté and in Nouméa of waves between 45 centimeters and 80 centimeters were observed, indicated the local civil security, which specified that no damage was to be deplored.

After a series of powerful earthquakes, tens of thousands of people in coastal areas of New Caledonia, New Zealand and Vanuatu fled to the heights and inland on Friday.

Early Friday morning, the 64 New Caledonian tsunami warning sirens sounded on the beaches of Noumea and firefighters evacuated bathers and athletes. Most stores had also lowered their curtains, AFP found.

A toll-free number has been made available to the population while 11 schools near the coast in Noumea have been evacuated, said the southern province.

Traffic jams

“A wave of one to three meters will impact the whole of New Caledonia. People must leave the beaches and stop all nautical activity, children must not be picked up from school so as not to create congestion ”, had alerted to the NC radio 1st Alexandre Rossignol, spokesperson for Civil Security, reporting a “Real threat”.

The rise in water levels was much less than expected. Finally, only a few people found themselves a little dehydrated after being stranded for several hours in traffic jams in Tahiti. It was indeed forbidden to travel on the East Coast, which caused traffic jams in the North-East of Tahiti.

A magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck near the Kermadec, uninhabited Pacific islands belonging to New Zealand. The earthquake, which struck at 8:28 a.m. local time (7:28 p.m. GMT Thursday), was preceded by tremors of 7.4 and 6.9 in the same region.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), located in Hawaii, has warned that waves up to three meters high can hit Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

Alert until Peru

This organization added that smaller waves were as likely to hit countries as far from the epicenter of the earthquake as Japan, Russia and Mexico, as well as the shores of South America.

Peru issued a tsunami warning Thursday evening on its 3,000 km long coast, but without an evacuation order for the time being. ” The arrival […] waves is expected at dawn on March 5 ”, the National Emergency Operations Center (Coen) said on Twitter.

In Chile, it is l‘”Yellow alert for coastal municipalities” and “The state of precaution which requires, preventively, to abandon the beach areas in the face of a small tsunami with waves of up to one meter”, according to the National Emergency Office (Onemi).

New Zealand emergency services initially ordered the evacuation of coastal areas over long stretches of northern New Zealand (the North Island). A few hours later, shortly after 00:00 GMT on Friday, the National Emergency Management Agency however withdrew its alert, assuring that “ the biggest waves have now passed ”.

This South Pacific country, used to seismic and volcanic activity, has just marked the 10th anniversary of the 6.3 magnitude Christchurch earthquake, in which 185 people died.

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