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Quake hits central New Zealand

Paul Brislen, Editor. 14 November 2016, 8:28 am

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake that hit central New Zealand this morning has caused chaos for those travelling into Wellington and early reports suggest at least one fatality and possibly more. With travellers being advised to stay out of central Wellington while building assessment work goes on, remote working is fast becoming an essential requirement for many in key positions, and that means mobile and fixed line networks are a must.

Vodafone, 2Degrees and Spark have all issued statements about the damage to their networks with updates as sites come back online and technicians can get to remote areas to determine the level of damage. Power supply in some cases is being delivered via battery back-up - whether that's going to last the distance depends on how quickly the sites can be reconnected to the power supply. Battery back-ups tend to last no more than a day and while generators can be shipped in, that all takes time.

Chorus doesn't appear to have issued any statement at this stage (0800) but its network outages page continues to list the various issues in map form. Kaikoura, close to the centre of the earthquake, is reported as "You may be experiencing issues with your copper broadband or phone services".

Social media services have proven their value with #eqnz trending on Twitter as users share information on areas of impact, damage levels and enquiries from overseas' family looking for information, although as ever Twitter users are advised to seek cover before tweeting. Facebook has activated its Safety Check service, where users can log in to say they're OK and those looking for family and friends can ask them to respond.

Telcos advise using the least amount of bandwidth during these times, to leave networks open for emergency service use, and so the humble TXT message is offered as the preferred medium of choice for non-essential services. TXT messages take up very little room on the network and the protocol that drives them will retry sending a TXT repeatedly until it gets through. Some providers suggest users change set up a temporary greeting on their voicemail service so that even if their phone runs out of power callers can still hear that they're OK.

As ever, in an emergency callers are advised to ring 111.

Hats off to Radio New Zealand's team for its sterling efforts throughout the night and special mention to Chris Keall at NBR for pulling together a story in his pajamas. 


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