29 November, 2017 New
Zealand could be potentially hit by a massive magnitude 9.0
earthquake followed by a “towering” tsunami, scientists warn.
According to the researchers, a 2016 quake that hit the area
reawakened a hazardous fault that was believed to be dormant.
Hikurangi subduction zone – a deep trench in the Earth’s crust
running along the eastern shore of New Zealand’s North Island –
is now active and could trigger magnitude 8.5 earthquakes, which
would be far more devastating that the one that hit the islands in
2016, a group of scientists from the GNS research institute warn. The
earthquakes are also likely to be followed by tsunamis that could
reach New Zealand’s coast within mere minutes, the geologists add.
need to think Japan 2011, basically, because if our whole plate
boundary ruptured, it would be a magnitude 9 earthquake," Ursula
Cochran, an earthquake geologist at the GNS, told the local
Hikurangi subduction zone is potentially the largest source of
earthquake and tsunami hazard in New Zealand, but there is still much
to learn about it,” GNS
Science said in
a statement earlier.
zones similar to the one located near New Zealand are areas in which
tectonic plates collide, with one being forced over the top of one
another, creating what the geologists call a “megathrust.”In
case of the Hikurangi subduction zone, the Australian plate is
overhanging the Pacific one.
earthquakes that took place in such zones include the devastating
2011 earthquake followed by tsunami in Japan that claimed lives of
thousands of people and triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster, as
well as a 2004 Indonesia magnitude 9.0 earthquake that left as many
as 250,000 people dead.
disaster that could potentially hit New Zealand would affect many
heavily populated areas, such as Napier, Gisborne, Nelson,
Wellington, Blenheim and Palmerston North. All those areas are
located too close to the Hikurangi subduction zone for the scientists
to issue a timely warning.
threat posing by a “megathrust” earthquake
is a “towering” tsunami
that would reach the shores of New Zealand in mere minutes. "We
know from tsunami modeling from a hypothetical earthquake from the
Hikurangi subduction zone that the travel times could be very short
to the coast, so seven minutes for some of the south Wairarapa
said. In case of the Marlborough region, the people would have only
between 10 and 30 minutes before a tsunami reaches them.
zone earthquakes often produce large tsunamis because there are large
and rapid displacements of the seafloor,” another
GNS earthquake geologist, Kate Clark, warned in
Hikurangi subduction zone is hazardous because we know that the
plates are stuck together in places and are building up stress that
will be relieved in future earthquakes,” she
told the New Zealand Herald at that time.
ongoing geologic activity could have been triggered by a magnitude
7.8 earthquake that hit New Zealand in 2016. At that time, the
tremors left giant cracks in the earth, destroyed buildings and
roads, and left two people dead.
thing about reflecting on from the Kaikoura earthquake is we don't
want people to think this is the big one,” Cochran
told the local media, referring to the 2016 earthquake. She went on
to say that “the
big one” would
affect much larger territories of the islands. “Don't
be scared, be prepared,” she
March 2017, the GNS issued a video explaining the situation in the
Hikurangi subduction zone. Now an international team of scientists
has launched a special project to study the area and improve their
understanding of risks it could pose to New Zealand