Pacific islands unscathed after tsunami scare

New Caledonia is in the predicted path of the tsunami. (Shutterstock)
Updated 29 August 2018
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Pacific islands unscathed after tsunami scare

  • Experts warned waves reaching 0.3 to 1 meter above the tide level are possible
  • Anyone near the coast was urged to “stay alert” and follow instructions from local authorities

SYDNEY: Small tsunami waves lapped New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu Wednesday after a strong earthquake in the Pacific Ocean, but the threat passed without any damage reported.
After the 7.1 magnitude quake struck off the eastern coast of New Caledonia, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said “waves reaching 0.3 to 1 meter above the tide level” were possible.
But only minor sea level fluctuations were recorded and the warning was soon called off.
Despite this coastal populations were urged to “stay alert” and follow instructions from local authorities.
The tremor hit at a depth of 27 kilometers (17 miles) in the southern Pacific Ocean, some 231 kilometers from the nearest town, Tadine, in the lightly-populated Loyalty Islands, the US Geological Survey said.
Geoscience Australia said shaking would have been felt throughout New Caledonia, but it put the damage radius at 103 kilometers — well away from land.
Jonathan Hanson, duty seismologist at New Zealand’s GNS Science, said the epicenter was some distance from inhabited islands and the tsunami wave warnings were modest.
“The tsunami wave sizes we’ve seen reported are 16-17 centimeters (6.3-6.7 inches) at two New Caledonia stations. At those sizes we wouldn’t expect any damage,” he told AFP.
New Caledonia’s Civil Security department said there was no risk of major flooding.
“Given its location, depth and magnitude, abnormal changes in sea levels could be seen in the Loyalty Islands,” it said.
“Since there is no risk of major flooding along the coast, no action by the public is required,” it added, calling nonetheless for coastal residents to exercise “caution.”
Fiji’s disaster management minister tweeted that the quake “does NOT pose any immediate threat to the Fiji region.”
New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, Fiji and Vanuatu are located within the “Ring of Fire,” a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

Updated 3 min 54 sec ago
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At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least one person is dead and multiple others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands.

Police have not ruled out terrorism as a possible motive in the shooting that left several people “heavily injured” - the shooter remains at large. Police have erected a white tent over an area where a body appears to be lying next to a tram where the shooting happened, AP reported.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökman Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

The Dutch anti-terror coordinator has raised the threat alert to its highest level around the central Dutch town of Utrecht following the shooting incident on a tram in the city, with the shooter still on the run.

Paramilitary police have increased security at airports, mosques and other vital public infrastructure. Police have also advised schools in the area to keep their doors closed.
Anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 
Dutch police say they are looking for a least one person who might have fled by car.

Spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 
“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the government is currently holding crisis talks.

Aalbersberg earlier said on Twitter that he was having “crisis consultations”, adding: “Terrorist motive not excluded. Information not yet full.”

 

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)