Tsunami early warning system for the Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic launched in RomeExperts and delegations from 23 countries of the Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic have laid the foundations for a regional tsunami early warning system at a meeting that finished in Rome yesterday.
Organized by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and hosted by the Italian ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Environment, this was the first meeting of the new system’s Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG), which will oversee its implementation and supervise its operations. The participants identified the key technical requirements for the system and adopted a plan of action for 2006-2007.
The plan of action focuses on: enhancing capabilities for multiple hazard and risk assessment; improving warning efficiency based on seisomological, geophysical and sea-level information; increasing mitigation ability through coastal planing and raising public awarness of coastal hazards. The ICG will implement trials for key components of the early warning system with the aim of having an initial operational system in place by December 2007.
In a message to the meeting, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura underlined the need to utilise existing European detection networks, harnessing their existing capabilities for the purposes of tsunami warning. “This strategic approach is essential,” the Director-General said, “since the long-term sustainability of the warning system depends on the multiple uses of detection networks (and) national tsunami warning centres, designed to respond to the most frequent types of events occurring in their regions and fully interlinked with the national emergency authorities, so that long-term preparedness plans can be implemented and timely warning can be issued by responsible agencies.”
Although less frequent that in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, the Mediterranea and Northeast Atlantic region has a record of tsunamis associated with seismic activity. In 1755, the city of Lisbon was destroyed by a tsunami resulting from a major earthquake along the Azores-Gibraltar fault. In another event in 1908, 85,000 people died in Messina (Italy). There are also records of local events along the coasts from Norway to the Marmara and the Black Seas.
The tsunami early warning system for the Northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean is part of a global tsunami warning and mitigation system being coordinated by UNESCO-IOC. Similar systems have already been established in the Pacific and theIndian Oceans, and planning is underway for a warning system in the Caribbean. The next meeting of the system’s Intergovernmental Coordination group is scheduled for May 2006.