Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Record participation in C’bean tsunami warning exercise

The level of participation in the tsunami warning exercise that took place on 26 March in the Caribbean was unprecedented, compared with similar exercises in 2011 and 2013.

Organised by the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), it revealed the commitment of the countries concerned and a growing awareness of the tsunami threat in the region.

A total of 31 Member States, which include Barbados and 16 of the territories in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, participated in the third regional tsunami exercise, CARIBE WAVE/LANTEX 2014.

In addition, 230 000 people participated in the test, a 75% increase compared to 2011 and 300% more than in 2013. National Tsunami Warning Focal Points, other International, State, Territorial and Local Emergency Management Organisations, academic institutions, governmental agencies, businesses, health facilities, media and individuals, also took part.

“I welcome the success of this tsunami warning exercise. It demonstrates the maturity of the Tsunami Early Warning System implemented in the region in 2005,” said UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova.

“Co-operation between States and specialised institutions, and the preparation of local populations, is crucial, to address tsunami-related risks, mitigate their impact and save lives. The extent of participation in the test and the smooth execution of the simulation is therefore cause for celebration.”

Two scenarios were developed for this year’s exercise. The goal was to test the readiness of the countries in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions to respond to a distant tsunami.

Alert messages

Previous experience underlines the crucial importance of rapid transmission of information to limit damage and save lives. In addition to the transmission of alert messages, Member States could choose to participate in various activities, including seminars, video conferences, simulations and evacuation exercises.

Over the last 500 years, 75 tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean. This figure represents about 10% of the entire number of oceanic tsunamis in the world during that period. Tsunamis have killed more than 3 500 people in the region since the mid-19th century. In recent decades, an explosion in population growth and the number of tourists in coastal areas have further increased the region’s vulnerability. (TL/PR)

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