MetService and GNS Science staff have returned to Raoul Island for the first time since the 8.1 magnitude earthquake near the Kermadec Islands that rattled many New Zealanders in the early hours of March 5.
They arrived at the Island’s accommodation building to find pantry items strewn across the ground and books piled on the ground.
However, so far there is no apparent structural damage to the building, but MetService’s meteorological data services manager Kevin Alder said an engineer travelling with the team would be able to provide a complete picture on return to New Zealand.
Alder said earthquakes of this size have occurred in the region before while staff have been on the island.
“You could say that the facilities have been designed with that fact in mind, that it is a high-risk area for earthquakes.”
Two MetService staff and the engineer travelled to the remote island with GNS Science staff and the NZ Defence Force (NZDF) onboard the Royal New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Canterbury.
They left on March 8 and are due to return this evening.
The mission was meant to depart on March 1 but was delayed due to Auckland’s alert level change, meaning the crew would have been on the island during the quakes.
This week’s trip was scaled back to focus on critical work, including maintenance of weather systems and tsunami warning systems.
The crew also surveyed the island from helicopters to check for damage from the earthquake. The NZDF said landslips and water discolouration were identified but no significant damage to equipment or structures was seen.
Just over a week ago, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook thousands of New Zealanders awake at 2.27am.
Two more earthquakes followed, a 7.4 magnitude shake at 6.41am and the 8.1 quake at 8.28am, in the Kermadec Islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand.
The latter sparked Civil Defence tsunami warnings.
The tsunami threat affected much of the Northland, Bay of Plenty, East Coast and upper West Coast coastlines. Residents were told to move to higher ground immediately.
The warning was lifted at 3.34pm.
Maritime component commander commodore Matt Williams said the earthquakes and subsequent tsunami warnings were a reminder of how important these early warning systems are.
“We will continue to monitor the situation in the Kermadec Islands, including consulting with our colleagues in GNS Science.”
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