A Traveller’s Guide to Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Niue
Being a small island close to active earthquake zones like the Tonga Plate, Niue is subject to a risk of natural disasters and extreme weather events. Those weather events are tropical cyclones, which you can read up on in How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Niue. A natural disaster that also can affect Niue are tsunamis, which can be caused by earthquakes in the South Pacific Ocean. However, be reassured that Niue is one of the most prepared South Pacific Islands for such events, which you can also prepare yourself too with this guide to earthquakes and tsunamis in Niue.
For more safety tips, see How to Stay Safe in Niue.
Facts About Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Niue
- Niue sits beside an active earthquake zone known as the Tonga Plate, found between Tonga and Niue
- Niue is approximately 345km (214 miles) away from the Tonga Plate
- Earthquakes that can be felt by Niue occur on the ocean floor
- Only 10 earthquakes over 8 magnitudes have occurred near Niue in the last 100 years
Learn about the climate of Niue in What is the Weather Like in Niue?
Earthquakes in Niue
Earthquakes aren’t a major concern in Niue. The closest tectonic plate that may affect Niue after an earthquake is the Tonga Trench. The trench is some 345km (214 miles) away from the island. There is little risk of earthquakes impacting Niue in a way that will cause building destruction, but landslides might occur on the coast.
Because an earthquake likely to impact Niue would occur on the ocean floor, tsunamis created by the quake would be more of an issue than the earthquake itself. That’s why, when talking about emergency procedures in Niue, cyclones and tsunamis emergy procedures are in place, rather than earthquake procedures.
Tsunamis in Niue
Tsunamis are the real danger of earthquakes occurring near Niue, which are caused when large volumes of water are displaced. Tsunamis can also be caused by cyclones, landslides and volcanic activity (although Niue sits a little further away from the Pacific Rim of Fire compared to countries like Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand).
One of the most impactful tsunamis experienced by Niue was during Cyclone Heta in January 2004. A tsunami washed over the old town of Alofi, devastating most of the buildings there. Since then, the town has moved away from what is now considered a coastal hazard area.
While Niue has received several tsunami warnings in recent years, for instance after the 2009 earthquake that occurred near Samoa, none have had any major impact on the island. Niue has become very active in preparing the island for tsunamis, with it being the first country in the Pacific to install the Australian Tsunami Warning System. They were also the first Pacific nation to commit to a Strategic Roadmap for Emergency Management where emergency services work together to coordinate emergency responses.
How to Know if a Tsunami is Imminent
Every village close to the coast in Niue has tsunami warning sirens in place. In the event of a tsunami, you will hear the sirens.
Another sign of a possible tsunami is if you feel an earthquake.
Finally, tsunami warnings will also be issued through the radio, TV or news outlets.
What to Do if a Tsunami Warning is Issued
If you are aware or even have a feeling that a tsunami might be close (perhaps due to an earthquake), get off and away from the reef immediately and get to higher ground. Do not wait for the siren.
If the sirens go off and/or a warning is issued on the radio or TV, stay off the reef and away from coastal areas. Follow the evacuation signs and stay on high ground until the Niue Police advise that it is safe to return to lower ground. You can also listen to the radio for further instructions.