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Mount Egmont/Taranaki (Egmont Volcano) is an active volcanic center. It last erupted around 1755 AD. It is likely that Egmont Volcano will erupt again, and all of Taranaki is at risk! It is very difficult to imagine the consequences of a major eruption. Even a minor eruption from Egmont Volcano will have significant impact on our community. Relocations will take place! if the eruption is large, evacuees could be away for months or even years, some may never come back to Taranaki again - EVER! This brochure is designed to accompany the video 'Understanding Volcanic Hazards', and explains what will happen in response to volcanic activity from Egmont Volcano.
So when will it erupt?
That's a hard question to answer. The Taranaki Regional Council has taken a lead role in monitoring earthquakes near the volcano to try and warn everybody of an impending eruption. Telltale volcanic earthquakes are a good indicator that something is starting to happen under the mountain. We may have weeks or even months warning that a possible eruption is building up.
So what's the plan?
Largely, the plan is one of self reliance. You are the best one to look after yourself. This brochure and the video should help you understand the risks associated with the volcano, and the civil defence response, this should assist you in your own emergency planning.
The Civil Defence Plan.
The Taranaki Regional Civil Defence Organization will take the lead role in coordinating the response to the volcanic activity in Taranaki. This response is divided into a number of phases and is based on the level of volcanic activity occurring, or forecast, and the need to protect people. As activity builds up, the public will be kept informed every step of the way. The levels of alert are based on scientific interpretation of the level of activity. The 'Scientific Alert Levels' range from 0-5. At zero, there is no indication of possible volcanic activity. This is normal for Egmont Volcano.
At scientific alert level 1 (possible minor activity), there is no need for a public response, this is a good time though to review any emergency planning you may have done. A public awareness campaign will be started by Taranaki Regional Civil Defence. This will involve radio broadcasts to keep you up-to-date, and newspaper articles to tell you what precautions you should be taking if activity increases.
At scientific alert level 2 ( significant change in activity ), a state of regional civil defence emergency will be declared. In consultation with the Department of Conservation, the National Park will be closed. People will be encouraged to evacuate, or stay away from Taranaki. At this stage, there may be no visible changes to the mountain.
At scientific alert level 3 ( indications of possible eruptive activity), evacuation of institutions within Taranaki to neighboring regions will begin. Preparations for large scale evacuations of the RED and BLUE zones will be put in place.
At scientific alert level 4 ( eruption now imminent ), progressive evacuation of the RED and BLUE zones will begin, based on the level of the activity taking place on the mountain. Evacuation at this stage will be compulsory. Skeleton crews will remain during evacuations to maintain essential industries and security. However, these crews will also be evacuated as the level of risk increases. Bulk food supplies and transport will also be removed from the zones as they are evacuated.
At scientific alert level 5 (eruption in progress ), skeleton crews will be relocated from the BLUE zone. Residents of the ORANGE and YELLOW zones may also need to be relocated as necessary, and when possible.
Your emergency plan.
While you may have thought about what to do in an earthquake or fire, chances are you haven't thought about what to do if our volcano look like erupting - now's your chance.
Why relocate? The answer is simple; to save lives , you should get out of the way of the eruption. The four different evacuation zones reflect the degree of risk. People living in the RED zone are likely to be affected most severely and most frequently by the main hazards. The priority is to relocate them first. BLUE zone is next, then ORANGE and YELLOW. Check out the video and see for yourselves what the hazards can do!
Where could you go? You should ideally be beyond Hamilton and Palmerston North. These places may also be affected by ash fall, but not as severely as Taranaki.
Who are you going to take with you? Obviously your family, but what about pets, relatives or neighbors? Perhaps you could discuss this as a neighborhood support group.
When will you make the decision to relocate? Will you go early , or wait until you are told to go? Relocating early will mean you can choose which direction you will head in and what you can take with you, such as caravans, boats and family treasures. Once the evacuation is enforce by Civil Defence, you may not have a choice - the quickest way to safety is the plan once we are at this stage.
How will you get there? What are your transport needs? At Scientific Alert Level 1, keep your vehicle topped up with fuel in case you have to leave in a hurry. If you are going to rely on public transport, this will probably be taken over by civil defence to ensure that everybody is evacuated quickly and safely.
Do you have special health needs? what arrangements should you put in place to ensure that these needs are met? People with respiratory complaints, such as asthma of emphysema, are more susceptible to the effects of ash fall.
If you are a farmer, put plans in place to manage your own stock. Authorities will not be in a position to evacuate livestock in the build up of an eruption. MAF officials may be in a position to help you plan now - contact MAF to find out about livestock management of volcanic eruptions.
Know the hazards.
Ash is often called tephre. The heavy ash particles tend to fall closer to the volcano, but dust-like ash falls can occur at great distances from the volcano. All of Taranaki could be affected by ash fall from Egmont Volcano. Ash can cause all sorts of problems with people, electric equipment, motor vehicles, machinery and many other aspects of daily life.
Hot ash flows
Hot ash flows are also known as pyroclastic flows. These are extremely hot clouds of ash and gas that roll quickly down the slopes of the volcano, destroying everything in their path. Few people have survived hot ash flows.
Mud flows, also know as lahars, are rivers of mud, water, sand and rock that flow down the river courses. Large mud flows can quickly cover large areas of land. Most of the Taranaki ring plain has been covered by mud flows at one time or another. Being caught in a mud flow is likely to be fatal as they tend to drag objects into the flow.
Volcanic landslides are extremely large collapses of portions of the mountain. Landslides can leave thick deposits of debris on the surrounding landscape, often hundreds of meters thick. The small hills in the Pungarehu and Inglewood areas are volcanic landslide deposits.
Volcanic tsunami are sea waves caused by volcanic landslides entering the ocean, or by submarine eruption. The probability that this will affect Taranaki is very low.
Lava is molten rock that can be erupted from a volcano. Egmont Volcano lava is very sticky and does not flow particularly well. For this reason, Egmont lava has not been found outside the National Park. Lava from Egmont Volcano is not considered a threat to people.
Volcanic Gases are released with every eruption. It is difficult to predict what types of gas, and what quantities the gases will be emitted during the next eruption.
Showing you what we know.
Once things start to happen under the volcano, you will be kept up-to date. Regular radio broadcasts will advise you of what stage the emergency is at, and what you should be doing. In addition to this, newspapers articles on hazard zones, evacuation zones, how to protect yourself and other property from the effects of ash fall, and many other important topics of information will be published.
Remember that radio messages during a 'Civil Defence Sting', that irritating noise to get your attention. When you hear this, listen to what we have to say... it could save your life!
A video entitles "Understanding Volcanic Hazards" is available to be borrowed free of charge from the Council offices and Civil Defence Organizations.
Taranaki Regional Council
45 Robe Street