The 10th Session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/IOTWS-X) has been held in Muscat, Oman, 24-26 March, hosted by the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) of the Sultanate of Oman. The session was held immediately following the highly successful regional conference on “Reducing Tsunami Risk in the Western Indian Ocean” and the inauguration of Oman’s National Multi-Hazard Early Warning System. The session was opened by the IOC Executive Secretary, Dr Vladimir Ryabinin, and was attended by 73 participants representing 20 IOTWS Member States, 5 UN agencies and other organisations and 17 other observers.
The key outcomes of the session were: 1) the establishment of a sub-regional Working Group for the Northwestern Indian Ocean chaired by Dr Juma Al-Maskari (Oman), 2) the merging of Working Group 1 on Tsunami Risk Assessment and Reduction and Working Group 3 on Tsunami Awareness and Preparedness into and a new Working Group 1 on “Tsunami Risk, Community Awareness and Preparedness” chaired by Dr Harkunti Rahayu (Indonesia), 3) the endorsement of the Terms of Reference of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre (IOTIC) and 4) the endorsement of the IOTWS Tsunami Service Provider (TSP) Service Definition Document.
The ICG elected new officers for the next intersessional period: the Chair is Dr Srinivasa Kumar (India) and the Vice Chairs are Dr Juma Al-Maskari (Oman) and Prof S.S.L. Hettiarchchi (Sri Lanka).
Full details of the delegates, documents and presentations can be found on the meeting website: www.ioc-unesco.org/iotws-10.
Cooperation between UNESCO and the European Commission’s Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has developed significantly since UNESCO started to apply for calls under the disaster preparedness ECHO programme (DIPECHO) and under prevention and preparedness programme (Civil Protection), which targets vulnerable communities living in the main disaster-prone regions of the world.
The UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean based in Santiago de Chile has successfully carried out several initiatives, starting with the project “Adaptive learning Mechanisms for the prevention and response to tsunami in vulnerable communities in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru” (2009-2010) under the 5th DIPECHO Action Plan for South America. That initiative also involved UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) as well as local, national and regional partners.
The main goal of this project was to raise awareness and promote education for disaster risk reduction and participation in prevention and response to tsunamis and earthquakes. In addition, the project aimed to improve regional and inter-institutional cooperation and coordination in preparation for tsunamis, including integrating a risk-management approach into the education sector.
In the framework of that initiative and among other main deliverables, tsunami and disaster risk reduction schools manuals were developed in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.
In Central America, UNESCO Cluster Office in San José implemented the project “Strengthening Early Warning Systems in Central America from a multi-threat perspective” (2011-2012) under the 7th DIPECHO Action Plan for Central America addressing Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Quite apart from the major disaster events that attract global attention, the region is also affected by lower intensity or “silent” events: flooding, landslides, and periods of anomalous cold weather and drought, which cause limited national and international impact but which severely destabilize the local economies of the areas affected, aggravating poverty conditions among the most vulnerable.
In the Caribbean, as part of the process of building early warning system capability in Haiti, UNESCO’s Office in Haiti together with IOC, in the framework of the project "Consolidating Haitian capacities for tsunami early warning and preparedness".(2013-2014) organized several workshops to enable full scale tsunami SIMEXs (simulation exercises) with thousands of participants, especially from schools located in tsunami prone areas. These activities involved the Haitian National Police (National Police), the MINUSTAH (United Nations Mission for the Maintenance of Peace) and many other partners.
In Dominican Republic jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNESCO and IOC implemented the DIPECHO project “National institutions prepared and communities resilient to earthquakes and tsunamis in urban environments in the province of Puerto Plata”. (2013-2014). The project builds on the experience and lessons learnt in South America and Haiti.
DG ECHO also supported the establishment of the Tsunami Information Centre for the North-Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and connected seas (NEAMTIC). The specific objectives of the NEAMTIC project were to make citizens, especially youth, aware of risks of floods from sea in coastal areas (tsunami, storm surges, and strong swells) in order to acquire knowledge on and practicing safe behavior, to identify, share, and disseminate good practices, in plans, methods, and procedures, to strengthen preparedness for sea level related hazards, including mitigation through integrated coastal zone management, and finally to foster linkages between the European Commission and the IOC on intergovernmental and transnational actions to develop the North-eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and connected seas Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (NEAMTWS).
In 2014 DG ECHO co-funded the organization of the second tsunami exercise for the NEAM region, NEAMWave14. NEAMWave14 involved the simulation of the assessment of a tsunami, based on an earthquake-driven scenario followed by alert message dissemination by the Tsunami Service Providers and continued with the simulation of the Civil Protection Authorities’’ actions. In addition as soon as the message produced in was received by the European Commission Emergency Response and Coordination Centre (ERCC) the simulation continued at international level with the activation of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. NEAMWave 14 offered an excellent opportunity for the non-European countries to test the CPM of the European Union and understand its functioning. In total, only 5 countries took part in this phase of the exercise: Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Italy and Malta requiring international assistance, and Spain offering international assistance.
In total between 2010 and 2015 UNESCO and ECHO have implemented so far approximatively 4 million euros towards building resilience and preparedness at community level and building national policies for effective and sustainable early warning systems and risk reduction educational tools. School manuals have been developed in Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Peru. Tens of thousands of school children have participated at exercises and hundreds of national staff have been provided training.
The Summary Statement from the IOC-UNESCO – BMKG International Conference to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami is now available for download. The conference was held on 24-25 November 2014 at the BMKG Auditorium in Jakarta, Indonesia and was attended by 160 participants from 28 countries, 10 UN agencies, 10 media organisations and many NGOs, research institution, universities and private organisations. The participants came from a variety of backgrounds, including physical and social scientists, warning system operators, emergency and response managers, planners, journalists, and policy and decision makers. The conference was organised by IOC UNESCO and BMKG with support from the UNESCO Jakarta office and the Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre (IOTIC).
The theme of the conference was "the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System 10 years after the Indian Ocean Tsunami: Achievements, Challenges, Remaining Gaps and Policy Perspectives". The statement includes key highlights and recommendations on 1) the development of the IOTWS since 2004, 2) outstanding needs and future developments, 3) donor perspectives, 4) sustainability of the IOTWS, and 5) strengthening international cooperation. The statement has been framed for conveyance to the 3rd UN World conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, 14 – 18 March 2015.
IOC-UNESCO announces the publication of Remembering the 1945 Makran Tsunami – Interviews with Survivors Beside the Arabian Sea. This booklet captures nearly 100 accounts of the 1945 Makran disaster as told by eye-witnesses and second-generation survivors in Pakistan, Iran, Oman and India. The publication is in English and versions in Farsi, Urdu, and Arabic will be available later in 2015.
The interviews were carried out between 2008 and 2014, chiefly under United Nations funded projects. Most of the accounts pertain to the 1945 tsunami, but testimony of the 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the Arabian Sea tsunami of 24 September 2013 is also included.
The booklet and video footage from forty of the interviews are available at http://iotic.ioc-unesco.org/1945makrantsunami/.
The booklet has been produced by the IOC-UNESCO Secretariat for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS) in Perth, Australia and the Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre (IOTIC) in Jakarta, Indonesia under a project funded by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness.
The tsunami alert exercise that took place from the 28 to the 30 October in the Mediterranean, North-eastern Atlantic, and the Black Sea has been marked by a strong participation of the civil protection authorities. This simulation aimed at testing the preparedness of the countries participating in the NEAMTWS established by the IOC of UNESCO.
In comparison to the first test organized in 2012, more Civil Protection Authorities (from 5 to 14) took part in the exercise. This exercise has been also the occasion to test the mainstreaming into the NEAMTWS system of the standard operational procedures of the Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the European Commission, which co-funds the exercise, for providing international assistance through the Union civil protection mechanism in case of major disasters.
For certain countries, e.g. Spain, Lebanon, Romania, UK, this exercise was the first occasion to establish contracts among the actors concerned with tsunami risk at national level.For the first time, countries bordering the Black Sea, like Romania and Russia, participated in the exercise.
During the exercise some communication issues has been identified, providing the opportunity to learn some lessons regarding, in particular, the use of some communication technologies.
The exercise, named NEAMWave14, simulated 4 earthquakes generating tsunamis in the Mediterranean, north-eastern Atlantic, and Black Sea. In total 20 countries, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Monaco, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom out of 39 NEAMTWS Member States took part in the exercise.
The Indonesian coast, between Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, after the earthquake and the tsunami of 26 December 2004. Photo by Evan Schneider © UN Photo
UNESCO supports Member States in improving capabilities for tsunami risk assessment, implementing early warning systems and enhancing preparedness of communities at risk. UNESCO works closely with national institutions and promotes inter-institutional and regional cooperation. Specialized regional centers provide tsunami information that, together with national analysis, is the basis of the warnings issued for the public. In addition, UNESCO promotes community-based approaches in the development of response plans and awareness campaigns which strongly involve education institutions and end-users.