Auckland the most unprepared for disaster

Auckland volcano

DISASTER STRIKES: Auckland Council’s impression of the effects of a volcanic eruption in the city.

Most Aucklanders are unprepared for a volcanic eruption or even the smallest natural disaster, the city’s civil defence head says.

“Aucklanders as individuals are not well-prepared. We are the least prepared in the country. Only about one in 10 people is really prepared for most eventualities. That is far too low,” Auckland Civil Defence controller Clive Manley told today’s forum on managing volcanic risk in Auckland.

The Auckland volcanic field is the most densely populated field of its type in the world. Fifty-six volcanoes have been identified in the field.

The field is 250,000 years old and there have been 55 eruptions. The most recent was Rangitoto 500 years ago, when it erupted two or three times.

The forum showed the public the way the Auckland Council, central government and the civil defence and emergency management sectors are preparing for next Auckland eruption.

The risk of a volcanic eruption was low, but being ready for the possibility of a house fire, flood or loss of power required the same preparation, Manley said.

“So if you prepare for the small things that can happen, that is you actually prepared for the big things, which is leave your property quickly, or if your power is out and your communications, how are you going to survive?” he said.

Located in an isthmus within the volcanic field, the city had many challenges to respond to in an eruption, but residents must have faith in the preparedness of the Government and Civil Defence, Manley said.

“Today it is important to show all the research that has been done and show all the planning that has been done so the community can get a real understanding of just when we say something’s happening, that their lives depend on them trusting that information,” he said.

“Katrina and other disasters; the people who ended up dying were the people who chose not to evacuate. In Auckland, we want people to have confidence in the system.”

Scientists had a good understanding of the potential effects of an Auckland eruption and knew the area affected would be within a a 3-kilometre to 5km radius of the eruption, said Brad Scott, volcano surveillance co-ordinator with GNS Science.

If an eruption occurred in South Auckland, northern Auckland would not be affected, he said.

“It will be disrupted by the volcanic ash and wind and it is going to be a real nuisance, but you are not going to be affected by those primary agencies, the explosions and the lava flows,” he said.

“It allows people to scale the problem and say I am 15km away from the problem, I can stay here.”

What scientists did not know was when that eruption might occur.

“That is one of the things that we are really struggling with,” Scott said.

“The challenge for us is to interpret that unrest and turn it into a warning. Is it going to turn up in a day, is it going to turn up in a week, is it going to turn up in a month?”


– © Fairfax NZ News

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