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Questions over quake response

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/09/2016
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Insurers aren't expecting big claims from the magnitude 7.1 quake that struck off the northeast coast of New Zealand.

The 22km-deep quake centred 125km northeast of Te Araroa hit at 4.37am on Friday, causing only minor damage and no injuries and generating a 30cm tsunami.

The most dramatic images in its aftermath were cracks in a beach.

Potentially damaging aftershocks, the largest so far being a 6.2, will continue for months, GeoNet scientists say.

The Earthquake Commission, which covers the first $100,000 for homeowners who have insurance, had received 48 claims by 4.30pm on Friday, a spokesman said.

Private insurers aren't expecting big claims as most should fall below that cap, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Council of New Zealand said.

The biggest fallout from this quake may well a policy one, after WeatherWatch head analyst Philip Duncan said the response from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management was below standard.

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye says the government will look for lessons to be learned.

There was already a project under way looking at processes for national warnings and public alerts, including the timeliness of alerts.

"Any potential changes to current processes will be considered as part of this project," she said.

Mr Duncan said an hour for a public threat warning and 80 minutes for a tsunami warning was too long to wait even if it was a "tough earthquake to work out".

Civil Defence Map © Civil Defence NZ Civil Defence Map GeoNet, the measurers of quakes, should have the power to warn and Civil Defence can take over once they "get going", Mr Duncan says.

The quake sent residents in the East Cape fleeing to higher ground, while Auckland's central train station, Britomart, closed temporarily as a precaution, causing delays in the morning commute.

"Outside there are cracks in the water tanks, with water running down the driveway. Inside we've got cracks as well, from ceiling to window frames, and all along the walls," Patutahi resident Kylie McKay told RNZ.

A spokeswoman for Civil Defence said the claims about response time had been misrepresented and Friday's quake was a complicated event.

"We're confident in our processes and acted as we should have done," she said.

In a statement, Civil Defence said the earthquake had originally registered as smaller, and it only took 17 minutes to get out a proactive notification after it was upgraded to a 7.1.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre had also indicated there was no initial threat, it said.

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