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TTC Special: Caribbean exercise against tsunamis

TTC Special: Caribbean exercise against tsunamis

The official attention to the possibility of tsunamis complements the ongoing work in the Caribbean region to combat the consequences of climate change. Photo: Foto: mathess/123rf

By F. Martin

TTC Service.- Just three days ago, the Caribbean region faced a Tsunami alarm.

Caribe Wave 18 exercise tested with success the rapid alert system against tsunamis and other coastal risks, created in 2005 under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of Unesco.

The purpose was to evaluate local tsunami response plans and communications strategies, increase tsunami preparedness, and improve regional coordination. The simulation had three stages, the arrival of a tsunami caused by an earthquake of great magnitude off the coasts of the southern Lesser Antilles, another occurred off the coast of Colombia and a third west of Puerto Rico.

The test of the Tsunami Warning System helps to identify its operational strengths and weaknesses. Experts said that the widespread operation of Tsunami Warning and Watch throughout the Caribbean requires implementation of local tsunami response plans.

The exercise included notification to the local media and representatives from various key Caribbean Governments Agencies.

Last February UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) organized a symposium to discuss the latest developments in tsunami early warning research and technologies to better protect millions of people at risk of tsunamis. Since the year 2000, more than 11 million people have been affected by tsunamis and more than 250,000 persons lost their lives.

A Symposium spokesman said participants highlighted the need for science to work more closely with emergency responders and policy makers, and how education and public awareness are essential to better protect coastal communities, noting that many communities will be at even greater risk of tsunami and floods with sea-level rise.

The world organization considered essential to mobilize the international community to develop warning systems, educate on prevention and make the public aware of the signals that warn of these catastrophes.

Scientists claim that in almost 15 years the situation has changed much thanks to the evolution of technologies to detect tsunamis, the role played by social networks in case of alert, and the development of systems to detect multiple risks and the public awareness ever more extended.

Experts said that Tsunamis can form when powerful quakes jiggle the seafloor up and down.
A massive quake is less likely in the Atlantic Ocean that in the Pacific. But that doesn’t mean the risk of a tsunami is zero. Underwater avalanches and volcanoes can also move enough water to generate the powerful waves of a tsunami.

In the Caribbean, a region visited by millions of tourists each year, earthquakes are especially dangerous because often occur near the coast, which means that if the earthquake produces a tsunami, people have very little time to escape.

A quake magnitude 7.5 off the coast of Puerto Rico in 1918 generated waves reaching nearly 20 feet (6 meters) killing at least 91 people. In the last five centuries, the Caribbean has been hit by 75 tsunamis, which is equivalent to 10 percent of the world total of oceanic tsunamis that occurred in that period.

The official attention to the possibility of tsunamis complements the ongoing work in the Caribbean region to combat the consequences of climate change.