20 March 2013 Caribbean nations are participating today in a full-scale tsunami alert exercise organized under United Nations auspices to test their reaction capacity.
According to the scenario of the exercise, organized under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an earthquake measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale will strike 90 kilometres off the coast of Oranjestad, Aruba, in the Caribbean Sea, generating a tsunami.
The fictitious alert message will be sent by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WCATWC), triggering local tsunami response plans.
“The test is designed to determine whether Caribbean countries are ready to respond in the event of a dangerous tsunami,” UNESCO stated in a news release.
The agency added that the goal is to test the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, which was established in 2005 by the countries of the region in collaboration with the Commission, ensuring that the national focal points responsible for the dissemination of the alert and first responders receive timely warning.
“Previous experience underlines the crucial importance of rapid transmission of information to minimize the damage caused by tsunamis,” said UNESCO.
According to the agency, 75 tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean over the past 500 years – representing about 10 per cent of the entire number of oceanic tsunamis in the world during that period.
Simulated tsunami exercises have been organized previously in the Pacific in 2008 and 2011 and in the Indian Ocean in 2009 and 2011.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue