Tsunami hikoi for Opotiki


ON Thursday between 10.30am and 12.30pm, Opotiki Primary School will be practising its tsunami evacuation route as part of the national Tsunami Hikoi Week.

This month marks the eighth anniversary of the Japanese Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Civil Defence Emergency Management is encouraging locals to mark the occasion by thinking about what might happen if an earthquake or tsunami event occurred in the Opotiki district and the plans each person and whanau have in place to get inland or to higher ground.

Emergency management adviser Meagan Edhouse said although such an event was rare, a large earthquake or tsunami could devastate local communities.

“Such a large number of people live and work in coastal areas in the Opotiki district so it is even more important that businesses, schools and childcare centres in tsunami evacuation zones identify their nearest safe zone and do a “Tsunami Hikoi” drill to higher ground.

“Centres across the country will be carrying out drills during March and Tony Howe, principal at Opotiki Primary School has worked hard to initiate the event in Opotiki.

“We have worked with Tony to set a date and make sure there is traffic management in place and police, the council and other authorities are all aware and working together on Thursday.

“It is a great opportunity for the school to be the first to trial a hikoi event for the Opotiki township, and we are certain that this will raise public awareness with the large number of students and teachers that will be involved, walking a well marked and safety marshalled course.

“Walking the route is so much more powerful than looking at a map,” Ms Edhouse said.

It is also timely to consider personal and whanau plans for an emergency, for example a friend’s house in a safe zone.

“For a local source tsunami, which could arrive in minutes, there won’t be time for an official warning. It is important to recognise the natural warning signs and act quickly,” Ms Edhouse said.

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

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

Move immediately to the nearest high ground, or as far inland as you can.

“In our workplaces and schools and childcare centres, we practise “drop, cover and hold” and fire drills.

“We should also practise our ‘long or strong get gone’ evacuation route and Thursday is a great opportunity to do so.”

Emergency management advisers will be on site at the finish area at OPAC to provide advice and information to the public on tsunami and how to prepare.

The Opotiki District Council website has more information including the hikoi route, posters and how others in the district can organise to practice their evacuation route.