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Published: 2010-02-28 00:00:00

Residents of the Waikato region’s east coast are being urged to stay away from the ocean after a warning that a tsunami is due to hit from about 7am onwards on Sunday 28 February following an earthquake off Chile.

A complicating factor is that the tsunami is first expected at around high tide time in the east coast areas.

The Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management Group has formally activated to monitor the threat posed by the tsunami, provide necessary advice to the public and respond as required.

The Thames Valley Emergency Operating Area, which covers operations on the region’s east coast, has activated. The Waikato Valley Emergency Operating Area, which covers the region’s west coast, is on standby and the Southern Emergency Operating Area is on standby to assist. Regional harbour masters are also being alerted.

Group controller Chris McLay said that on the east coast the tsunami is expected to primarily present a threat to craft at sea or people in the water as it is anticipated it will be under one metre high at this stage. No evacuations of residents are currently planned.

The tsunami could possibly pose a threat to people and structures on land if it turned out to be higher than expected. Information on the degree of threat on the Waikato’s east coast will be updated later this morning. Thames Valley and the Group will advise if evacuation is necessary.

Mr McLay urged boaties and swimmers to stay out of the sea and for people to stay away from the coast and refrain from sightseeing. "People should listen carefully to radio and TV for updates on the situation and follow the instructions of Civil Defence authorities."

He stressed that tsunami could continue for some time after the initial one and this meant it was particularly important to stay tuned for advice on whether a threat still remained.

Mr McLay said Civil Defence would provide any relevant advice to people on the west coast as required. Currently it is estimated that only a small observable change in sea levels may occur on the west coast in the Waikato region.