False alarm triggers tsunami warning in BOP

A false alarm triggered automated tsunami warnings across the Eastern Bay of Plenty for seven minutes last night, prompting fears residents might ignore a genuine alert.

The incident at 8.02pm came only two months after a software glitch wrongly triggered the pager-activated tsunami alarm system.

Eastern Bay of Plenty Civil Defence said sirens sounded for seven minutes last night in Whakatane, Opotiki, Matata, Coastlands, Ohiwa, Waiotahi and Waihau Bay.

It appeared the sirens did not sound in Ohope.

Whakatane resident Geoff Cottrell said the local radio station did not give any information after the alarm sounded, so his household evacuated up the hill.

It was concerning that only four or five other families did the same, he said.

"It appears the alarm is no longer being taken seriously by the population," Mr Cottrell said.

"This is simply not good enough and needs urgent review before we all stop responding to the alarm and assume that it's just another computer failure."

Eastern Bay of Plenty emergency management co-ordinator Jim Tetlow said the matter was under urgent investigation, but it remained unknown what had caused the issue.

Additional security measures had been put in place after the previous false alarm, which was caused by a software glitch, he said.

"Unfortunately, last night the alert system sounded again last night without being intentionally activated by Civil Defence.

"We are investigating the cause of the activation with our provider, Kordia, and will update the public on the cause as soon as it is understood."

Opotiki mayor John Forbes said the main concern was people losing faith in the system.

Many people did the right thing by tuning in to local radio, which had been prompt in supplying information to the public, he said.

"But I appreciate there is a high risk that people will stop paying attention to the alerts and this is a concern for Civil Defence.

"It's possible that there will be further issues before the root cause of this problem is found, but I encourage people to continue to treat the sirens as they are intended - as a warning signal to find out more about the situation.

Whakatane District Council public affairs officer Ross Boreham said the system was automated so it was unlikely the false alarm was caused by human error.

- By Matthew Backhouse of APNZ

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