We visited the Hawke's Bay civil defence bunker during a major earthquake simulation. How would they, and the region, cope? Sahiban Hyde reports.
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Buildings have collapsed in Napier's CBD and Hastings. There is no power.
Fifteen people are dead across the region and 2000 are injured. Welcome to Exercise Rūaumoko, a five day exercise testing Hawke's Bay's arrangements in preparing for, responding to and recovering from a major emergency.
It's a scenario that plays out in real-time at the recently opened Emergency Coordination Centre at 309 Lyndon Road East in Hastings, from the shock of the first jolt to the multitude of decisions made as the aftermath becomes clear.
Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group manager Ian Macdonald said the exercise started on Thursday immediately following the New Zealand ShakeOut.
"The exercise is about testing our new building, activation procedures and our planning around responding to a major Hawke's Bay earthquake.
"It is our part of the ShakeOut and it is an exercise we run every two to three years.
"The exercise is all about testing out our procedures and how we work together under pressure."
The simulated earthquake is a severe event but it is not the worst case scenario, Macdonald said.
"It is very similar to the 1931 earthquake, which has a 1 per cent chance every year of happening.
"The worst case scenario would be an earthquake caused by a movement of the Hikurangi subduction zone plates."
The first thing the bunker did after the quake was to send out warnings and requests for Napier City Council, Hastings District Council and HBRC staff to come in to the bunker after the quake.
Fifty-five staff were available immediately.
On Friday afternoon of the exercise, when Hawke's Bay Today visited, it had been a day and a half since the earthquake struck and more council staff had since arrived.
"The shaking in Napier has been severe, and the shaking in Hastings has been strong," Macdonald said.
"For the scenario, in Napier people have not been able to stand and in both Napier and Hastings things would have fallen, buildings would have collapsed, dwellings damaged.
"There would be liquefaction in both Napier and Hastings, which would impact water supply and there would be limited water for quite a while."
The earthquake and the aftermath is all modelled with GNS data to see how the ground would react, he said.
"Because of Hawke's Bay's fuel infrastructure, there would be limited supply in Hawke's Bay.
"The Napier Airport and Port would automatically shut down after a major quake."
"We would seek assistance from outside the region"
That would come in the form of the New Zealand Defence Force, he said.
The recently established New Zealand Emergency Management Assistance Team (or EMAT) is a new capability in the emergency management system.
Their establishment is the Government's response to the recommendations to establish a 'fly-in team' in the Technical Advisory Group's report on better responses to natural disasters and other emergencies, and MacDonald said they'd be the first he'd call on.
In a major emergency, Hawke's Bay would need a significant and coordinated response and recovery effort, he said.
"The risk of large-scale emergencies such as an earthquake is very real and we must be prepared, so this is an opportunity for all of these organisations to practise their processes, decision-making and communications.
"Exercise Rūaumoko has an important role to play in helping us identify any gaps in our response and recovery in Hawke's Bay."
Macdonald said everyone could be more prepared for emergencies, from individuals to communities and organisations.
"Sudden-impact emergencies happen without warning, but there is a lot we can do to prepare so we can instinctively cope better."
Police SAR, Coastguard Hawke's Bay, Surf Lifesaving New Zealand and the Hawke's Bay Emergency Response Team will run a search and rescue exercise off the coast of Haumoana on Sunday, while volunteers from Red Cross, the SPCA and the Welfare Response Group set up a Civil Defence Centre at Pettigrew Green Arena in Taradale.
"On Monday we will be transitioning into recovery and we will look at the long-term impact of the earthquake and how to get people back to an acceptable standard of living.
"It'll be things like dealing with buildings, sewage, basically what we need to do to return people to a sense of normality."