In the past 500 years, more than 75 tsunamis have been documented in the Caribbean and adjacent regions. Since 1842, 3446 people are reported to have perished to these killer waves. The tsunami generated by the 2010 Haiti earthquake claimed several lives, but the most recent devastating events were the 1946 tsunamis of the Dominican Republic, with at least 1800 victims.
The most destructive known events have occurred in: 1692 in Port Royal, Jamaica; 1770 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; 1842 in Port-de-Paix and Cap Haitian; 1867 in Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands; 1882 in San Blas Islands, Panama; 1918 in US Puerto Rico and 1946 in Matanzas, Dominican Republic.
Since then, there has been an explosive increase in residents, visitors, infrastructure, and economic activity along Caribbean coastlines, increasing the potential for human and economic loss.
For tsunami-prone areas, UNESCO's tsunami coordination experience in the Pacific has shown that a proper network of sea level measurement stations do help to provide timely and accurate Early Warnings. With this in mind, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) commissioned six (6) brand new sea level stations, for Haiti (2), Cayman Islands, Guatemala,St Vincent & The Grenadines and St Kits & Nevis. The stations were installed with the support of Brazil, the European Union, Monaco and St Vincent & The Grenadines; they are now up and running and delivering data through the IOC Sea Level Monitoring Facility
IOC-UNESCO is committed to continue developing end-to-end coastal hazard early warning systems, to save lives and increase tsunami preparedness and readiness in the Caribbean.
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.