Wellington to have 15% chance of major earthquake over next 50 years

By Xinhua,

Wellington : New Zealand is due for a major earthquake or eruption during the next 50 years, the new Civil Defense Minister John Carter was told by his department on Wednesday.

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In a briefing paper for the minister, released on Wednesday, the department said the most serious natural event in the past 20 years was the 2004 Lower North Island flooding.

“However, New Zealand has not recently experienced a low probability but high consequence event that would lead to significant loss of life and property,” the New Zealand Press Association quoted the report as saying.

Modeling put probabilities on the chances of various events:

— A 15 percent chance of a major earthquake affecting Wellington over the next 50 years;

— A 20 percent chance of a major earthquake on the South Island Alpine Fault in the next 20 years;

— A 30 to 50 percent chance of an ash-producing eruption from Taranaki in the next 50 years;

— An estimated 4 percent chance of a volcanic eruption in Auckland in the next 50 years. There was also an estimated additional 3 percent chance Auckland may be affected by ash fall from a major eruption in the central North Island.

The paper said volcanic eruption was the most under-estimated threat.

A major exercise was held earlier in the year to plan how the country would face a volcanic eruption in Auckland. Such an event could wipe 14 percent off New Zealand’s GDP.

A major earthquake in Wellington was estimated to kill between 200 and 600 people with as many as 4000 casualties. The estimate for residential property claims was 6.2 billion NZ dollars (3.6 billion U.S. dollars).

Deaths from a one in 500-year tsunami would be of a similar scale to other major events.

Floods were the most frequent and costly natural hazard.