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The long-dormant Hikurangi fault line was recently re-energised and could now produce a deadly magnitude 9.0 earthquake.
GNS scientist Ursula Cochran said: “We need to think Japan 2011 basically, because if our whole plate boundary ruptured it would be a magnitude-9 earthquake.”
The geologist has claimed that the fault line is moving again following the deadly Kaikōura quake in 2016.
New Zealand sits along the fault line between the Australian Plate and the Pacific Plate leaving it susceptible to quakes.
A quake on the boundary could cause a tsunami comparable to the horror wave that killed 16,000 people in Japan and caused a nuclear meltdown.
Kaikōura earthquake, which reactivated the fault line, took two lives when it hit New Zealand but there could be much worse to come, Ms Cochran warns
She said: “One thing about reflecting on the Kaikōura earthquake is we don’t want people to think this is the big one.”
The epicentre of the quake could hit anymore along the eastern coastline of the northern island of New Zealand and parts of the south.
The tsunamis can lead to a much larger loss of life than the earthquake itself.
Ms Cochran said: “We know from tsunami modelling (of) the Hikurangi subduction zone that the travel times could be very short, so seven minutes for some of the south Wairarapa coast.”
The 2016 devastation measured 7.6 magnitude when it hit just after midnight on November 14.
Shaking the ground and shifting ground by 12 metres the earthquake left the area devastated.
The warning comes as Mount Agung grounded flights and led to evacuations in Bali, which stands along the deadly Ring of Fire.
There are more than 450 volcanoes along the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is world’s most active earthquake belt.
The latest Global Volcanic Hazards and Risk report said: “These volcanoes have the potential to be highly explosive.”
“The Pacific ‘ring of fire’ comprises chains of island volcanoes (e.g. Aleutians, Indonesia, Philippines) and continental volcanoes (e.g. in the Andes) that have formed above subduction zones.”
The 25,000-mile ring stretches all the way from South America and North America to Japan and New Zealand on the other side of the ocean.
Mount Agung is the highest volcano on the island of Bali – a popular honeymoon destination in the vast Indonesian archipelago.