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TTC Special: Caribbean monitors tsunamis

TTC Special: Caribbean monitors tsunamis

Seventy-five tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean over the past 500 years. Photo: Igor Zhuravlov/123rf

By Frank Martin

TTC Service.- Tsunamis are not frequent in the Caribbean Sea, but the islands of the region prefer to maintain a rigorous surveillance on this threat considered extremely dangerous and destructive.

Last 14 March region participated in the 2019 Caribbean Wave, an exercise to test the effectiveness of the system for early warning for tsunamis and other coastal threats.

The system established in 2005 under the auspices of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) creates the exercise that is very usefull to test the effectiveness of alert systems for emergency management actors in the region.

Experts explained that Caribe Wave 19 was developed in two double scenario.

First, the occurrence of a tsunami caused by an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 associated for the first time with a volcanic event, in this case the underwater eruption of Kick’em Jenny, followed by a landslide.

The second scenario forecasts an 8.5 magnitude earthquake on the Northern Panama Deformed Belt. Dummy messages were issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) and send it to the 46 participating countries and territories.

The IOC organization reported that the exercise engaged the cooperation of representatives of national warning organizations, emergency relief services, weather forecasting offices and coastguards. This year, it also involved the active participation of schools and hotels.

Although they are considered infrequent, tsunamis in the Caribbean have been destructive throughout history.

Seventy-five tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean over the past 500 years.

Tsunamis, whether generated by earthquakes, landslides or volcanic eruptions, have killed more than 3,500 people in the region since the mid-19th century, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The population explosion and the growth of tourism in coastal areas over recent decades have made the region more vulnerable.

Tsunamis generally consist of a series of waves, with periods ranging from minutes to hours, arriving in a so-called “internal wave train”.

Their destructive power can be enormous, and they can affect entire ocean basins. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was among the deadliest natural disasters in human history, with at least 230,000 people killed or missing in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.