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TTC Special. Tsunamis in the Caribbean: Speculation or scientific warning?

Scientists say that the Caribbean has become ever more vulnerable to such risks due to massive population growth and the development of tourism in coastal areas. Photo: Thomas Pajot / 123RF Foto de archivo

By F. Martin

TTC Service.- The tsunami traveled almost 155 miles in just 10 minutes and reached the Caribbean and Florida in eight or nine hours. A wall of water 164ft high smash into the region coasts.

This is no more than speculation? Or a real warning?

Scientists say that such a situation can be very real. A forecast three years ago by Simon Day of the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre at University College London together with Steven Ward of the University of California suggested that a tsunami could devastate coastlines from Florida to Brazil following a volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands.

The cataclysm responsible for launching the huge wave over America will be the collapse and landslide of Cumbre Vieja volcano, in the Canary Islands. Day said that even after crossing the Atlantic, a lateral collapse of Cumbre Vieja volcano could impose a great sequence of waves of 10-25m height on the shores of the Americas.

Experts said that Day’s thesis was first mocked by colleagues. But by now authorities are taking the tsunami threat seriously and preparing for a disaster. The Caribbean countries believe it is worth taking precautions against the possibility of tsunamis.

Tomorrow, March 21, 2017, Caribbean nations will develop a join exercise in order to update their plans in response to this kind of catastrophe. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced from Paris, its host city, that the exercise will be a test of the Early Warning System against Tsunamis and other coastal risks in the Caribbean and its adjacent regions, created by UNESCO in 2015.

After the catastrophic global impacts of the tsunami that occurred on 26 December 2004, UNESCO has been cooperating closely with the countries of the region, regional and international organizations and other partners, in working towards the setting-up of an early warning system for tsunamis.

The System consists in a coordinated network of national systems, whose assets will be owned and operated by the Member States hosting or otherwise taking responsibility for them.

UNESCO said that the purpose of the test is to identify possible weaknesses in the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, which was established in 2005 under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO).

The exercise will test a double scenario including a major earthquake off the coast of Venezuela and another off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. It will feature fictitious messages sent by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) to the countries taking part in the exercise.

According to historical reports in the last 500 years, 75 tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean, nearly 10% of the worldwide total over the same period. Tsunamis have claimed more than 3,500 lives in the region since the middle of the 19th century, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.

Scientists say that the region has become ever more vulnerable to such risks due to massive population growth and the development of tourism in coastal areas.

For the Caribbean it pays to be prepared.

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