Fire and Emergency apologises for false tsunami warning

The head of Fire and Emergency has apologised to residents from the East Coast and Bay of Plenty after several false tsunami alarms caused panic overnight. 

Residents in Waihī Beach evacuated to higher ground at around 9:30pm on Sunday after hearing sirens. The sirens were also heard in the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Mt Maunganui, Te Puke, and Ōmokoroa.

Fire and Emergency chief executive Rhys Jones said they are investigating what caused the alarm, and urged people not to lose faith in the system.

"We take this false alarm very seriously. We are investigating the cause, and because our sirens are linked into a nationwide emergency alert system, we will also work with other responding partners.

"This should not have happened and I apologise to Bay of Plenty people who were affected.

"Despite this false alarm, I ask people to retain confidence in the alert system of text message alarms and sirens. These alerts are life-savers."

One resident told Newshub the siren lasted for at least 15 minutes. 

"The tsunami sirens are going off from Waihi to Papamoa along the whole [Bay of Plenty] coast, been going for 15mins. People all panicked at the moment."

Another person, on Twitter, said it sounded "like chaos".

"How can people have any trust in a system like this?" 

Te Puke Fire Brigade posted on Facebook on Sunday night assuring residents the alarm was a "system fault". 

It also shared a photo showing a computer screen with a tsunami report. However this morning it deleted the photo and asked media to remove it because it contained sensitive information.