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'This is not a test': Tsunami siren blunder alarms beach residents

Author
Pierre Nixon,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Dec 2023, 2:58PM
Waikuku residents took to social media after an accidental tsunami alarm caused panic. Photo / George Heard
Waikuku residents took to social media after an accidental tsunami alarm caused panic. Photo / George Heard

'This is not a test': Tsunami siren blunder alarms beach residents

Author
Pierre Nixon,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Dec 2023, 2:58PM

Waimakariri District Council has confirmed a radio technician accidentally triggered a tsunami siren at Waikuku Beach, 30km north of Christchurch, this afternoon.

Waikuku resident Louise Melbourne told NZME the situation caused her a bit of panic.

“What I did hear was, ‘This is not a test, this is a tsunami warning and to get out of the water and get ready to evacuate’,” she said.

“So I’m thinking it just shows how prepared I was, I’m grabbing the dog and grabbing a jersey and wondering how many pairs of knickers to bring in the bag.”

At about 1pm, residents of the Canterbury beachside township, which has a population of 1130, were put on high alert when the tsunami siren system started blaring.

Waikuku residents took to social media after an accidental tsunami alarm caused panic. Photo / George Heard
Waikuku residents took to social media after an accidental tsunami alarm caused panic. Photo / George Heard

Residents quickly took to social media to alert one another of potential danger.

However, the council that operates the siren system quickly responded to media inquiries and said it was a false alarm, down to human error.

The Waimakariri District Council confirmed the false alarm was due to human error. Photo / George Heard
The Waimakariri District Council confirmed the false alarm was due to human error. Photo / George Heard

A council spokesman told the Herald: “The Waikuku Beach coastal siren was accidentally set off this afternoon with a pre-recorded evacuation message, the message was quickly stopped by the technician doing maintenance on the sirens.

“We want residents to know there is no need to evacuate and no risk, Civil Defence staff are on site keeping an eye out for any residents who may have heard the message and reacted.

“The activation was an accident and we’re sorry for the inconvenience and worry it may have caused residents.”

A Civil Defence Canterbury spokesperson confirmed crews weren’t responding to any tsunami-related incidents.

Later residents voiced their anger on social media.

One person commented on a council post: “The least you could have done is straight away go on the speakers to say it’s a mistake and, for the record, it is not very clear!”

Waikuku Beach is located 30km from Christchurch city. Photo / George Heard
Waikuku Beach is located 30km from Christchurch city. Photo / George Heard

In the event of an actual tsunami emergency, the council advises residents to check official channels, including the Ministry of Civil Defence and the Waimakiri District Council, and evacuate if emergency services say so.

An evacuation centre will be set up at the Woodend Community Centre at 6A School Rd in case of an emergency.

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