A Traveller’s Guide to Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Niue
Being a small island close to active earthquake zones like the Tonga Trench, 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. Another natural disaster that can affect Niue is 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, and you can also prepare yourself with this guide to earthquakes and tsunamis in Niue.
More safety advice can also be found in our Niue Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Niue?
4 Facts About Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Niue
- Niue sits beside an active earthquake zone known as the Tonga Trench, found between Tonga and Niue
- Niue is approximately 345 km (214 mi) away from the Tonga Trench
- Earthquakes that can be felt by Niue occur on the ocean floor, making tsunamis more of a potentially dangerous risk
- Only 10 earthquakes over 8 magnitudes have occurred near Niue in the last 100 years.
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 345 km (214 mi) east of 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, cyclone and tsunami emergy procedures are in place, rather than an emphasis on earthquakes.
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. Regardless, 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. Niue was 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.
Other signs of a tsunami could be a strong earthquake, seeing the ocean recede and/or hearing unusual roaring sounds from the ocean.
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 get away from coastal areas. Follow the blue tsunami 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.
More About Safety, Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Niue
That’s it for the guide to earthquakes and tsunamis in Niue. For more about natural disasters and safety tips, head to the following articles:
- Cyclones in Niue: A Guide to Cyclone Safety in Niue
- Niue Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Niue?
- Is the Water Safe to Drink in Niue?