Based on a fictitious earthquake, the exercise will test the early warning system for tsunamis and other coastal hazards set up in the region in 2005 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission established by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.
The exercise does not involve communities but instead is aimed at testing the performance of weather forecast offices, national coast guards and other responders.
The scenario developed by organizers of the exercise calls for countries in the Caribbean to receive an alert on March 23 concerning a fictitious earthquake of 7.6 magnitude off the coast of the U.S. Virgin Islands at 18.2 degrees N, 65.3 degrees W.
Bulletins will be issued by the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in the United States for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii for the rest of the area.
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands is among places testing their tsunami warning systems March 23, 2011 (Photo by Ryan Adrian)
Jeremy Collymore, executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, said, "The exercise will test effectiveness and strengthen alert, monitoring and warning systems among all the emergency management organizations, national focal points for tsunami alerts, weather forecast offices and national coast guard regionally."
This exercise is especially important following the catastropic tsunami that struck Japan March 11, said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
"The earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan have shown how essential alert systems are," Bokova said. "In this context the development of a coordinated system in the Caribbean is more relevant than ever, enabling coastal countries to prepare in the event of such a disaster and to save human lives."
Over the last 500 years, at least 75 tsunamis have been recorded in the Caribbean, about 10 percent of the total number of oceanic tsunamis in the world during that period.
Caribbean tsunamis 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.
Bokova observes that over the past several decades, an explosion in population growth and in the number of tourists visiting coastal areas have further increased the region's vulnerability.
Simulated tsunami alert exercises have been organized previously in the Pacific in 2008 and in the Indian Ocean in 2009.
The countries taking part in the tsunami alert exercise are: Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, France (Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Guyane), Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands (Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Curacao and Sint Marteen), Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos), and the United States.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.