NZ scientists to study tsunami impacts in Samoa


A team of New Zealand scientists and engineers will travel to Samoa this weekend to gather information on the impact of the September 30 tsunami on coastal communities and infrastructure.

The team comprises four specialists from GNS Science and four from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). The 15-day mission is jointly funded by both organisations.

They will spend five days in American Samoa studying the impact of the tsunami on buildings and infrastructure, mostly in urban areas. They are particularly interested in how different construction types handled the tsunami.

They also intend to compile information on the forces exerted by the tsunami and the amount of damage caused by incoming and retreating waves.

They will also spend 10 days in Samoa where they will join other international tsunami survey teams studying the physical, economic and social impacts of the tsunami.  

Co-leader William Power, of GNS Science, said the aim of the visit was to gather a wide range of information to help New Zealand become better prepared for the threat of a tsunami.

“One of our goals is to improve the understanding of the mechanics of tsunami wave movement in coastal settings,” said Dr Power.

“This will help to improve the accuracy of computer models of the way tsunami waves propagate as they approach New Zealand, and how they interact with shallow coastal environments.”

In turn, this would enable scientists to refine estimates of the level of tsunami damage that might be expected for an earthquake of a given magnitude and location in the Pacific.

Risk Engineer at NIWA and co-leader Stefan Reese said the visit was all about the four Rs – ‘Readiness, Response, Recovery and Reduction.’

“What we learn from this tsunami we can use to help both Samoa and New Zealand increase the resilience of their communities,” Dr Reese said.

The information the team collects will be used to refine and improve ‘RiskScape’ , a multi-hazard impact assessment tool jointly developed by GNS Science and NIWA to help New Zealand better manage risks from natural hazards.

The New Zealand group has a range of expertise including tsunami modelling, earthquake geology, flood modelling, civil engineering, land surveying and social science.


Tsunamis can have a devastating effect, like in this photo of a beach in Thailand from 2004.


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