A seizometer: generic image
A seizometer: generic image

Coffs Harbour falls under tsunami evacuation zone

COFFS Harbour and Sawtell residents would need to race to higher ground if a tsunami neared the coast, with almost the entire town falling under the NSW State Emergency Service's evacuation zone.

The state's beachfront towns are depicted in the SES's new evacuation maps, including Sapphire Beach and Urunga.

Coffs Harbour Airport would also be a no-go zone.

The maps were released as a public service but their timing was less than ideal, coinciding with torrential storms along the East Coast and causing many residents to fear a tsunami was imminent.

The SES was forced to assure people it was "not a warning", it was "a set of maps showing areas that will be asked to evacuate if a warning were issued".

In a statement the service said the likelihood of a land-threat tsunami hitting NSW was very low, but a big enough earthquake in places such as Tonga and south of New Zealand would trigger a warning.

Marine-threat tsunamis occur once about every six years in NSW waters but are usually only dangerous to swimmers and boaters because of the dangerous currents.

"There is no record of a land-threat tsunami in Australia since European settlement," the statement continued.

NSW SES Acting Commissioner Greg Newton said there were three potential causes of a tsunami - earthquakes, underwater eruptions or coastal landslides.

"If there is a threat of land inundation from a tsunami, move to higher ground at least 10m above sea level or, if possible, 1km away from the coast and rivers," he said.

"Be sure to listen to your local radio station for information, warnings and advice."

A 2014 Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre simulation of worst-case wave-triggering earthquakes found Western Australia was by far the country's most at-risk area for tsunamis.

The WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services said the state's coastline was particularly vulnerable because of its proximity to the Java Trench, a very active earthquake area.

There is currently no tsunami warning issued for anywhere in Australia, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

To see whether your home lies in an evacuation zone visit tsunamisafe.com.au.


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