UNESCO Director-General hails successful test of Pacific tsunami warning systemUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today hailed the first region-wide test of the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System as a “great success”, and congratulated the 30 countries that participated in the event.
“The test has shown us that our communication system and general preparedness are by and large working well,” said Mr Matsuura. “Authorities in participating countries received the information bulletins from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Honolulu rapidly and were able to act accordingly. Even though a detailed analysis is yet to come, it is clear that the drill has been a great success.”
According to the scenario developed for Exercise Pacific Wave 06, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake at 19,04 GMT off the coast of Chile, sent a tsunami racing across the eastern Pacific. A second mock alert, indicating an earthquake north of the Philippines, tested responses in the western Pacific.
“The drill was based on very realistic scenarios,” said Patricio Bernal, Executive-Secretary of the UNESCO-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). “Our main concern was to test the international and national communication networks – to make sure that the information is received quickly by the right people in all participating countries. Initial reports showed that this has worked very well, despite the challenge posed by a series of real earthquakes that actually happened in the region hours before and even during the test.
“The early results also show up some of the areas that need improving in this network – that must function on a 24/7 basis,” Mr. Bernal added. “The ability to effectively disseminate public warnings – especially very late at night or during the early hours of the morning – is one such area.
“Another,” he added, “is dealing with the extra pressure placed on emergency response agencies facing the onset of a tsunami very close to their coasts. For example, in the scenario applied yesterday of a 9.2 earthquake off the Chilean coast, Chilean authorities would have had to respond in few minutes, with incomplete information. Japan, on the other hand, would have had 22 hours to assess the event and adopt the proper emergency measures. ”
Several countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Samoa and Thailand also tested local emergency and relief services, conducting evacuation exercises in selected coastal communities and schools
Post exercise evaluations are now underway and a more detailed analysis of the rich and detailed results will be prepared and disseminated, allowing countries and organizations to strengthen their response capacity for a real-life event.
Exercise Pacific Wave 06 was coordinated from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii, which is the hub of the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System established by UNESCO-IOC over 40 years ago. Similar systems are being established by the IOC in the Indian Ocean, the Northeastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and Connected Seas, and the Caribbean, with the aim of providing a global warning and mitigation system which should be operational by the end of 2007.