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Indonesian tsunami shows more work needed to prepare vulnerable populations

The tragic losses caused by the 25 October earthquake and tsunami off Sumatra show that efforts must be intensified to further improve the preparedness of coastal populations in the world’s most vulnerable regions, said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System functioned effectively during the magnitude 7.7 earthquake and tsunami. However, warning messages could not be issued quickly enough to protect populations within minutes of the epicenter, near the Indonesian Mentawai Islands.
“We must intensify our efforts to make sure communities on shorelines close to tsunami source zones know what to do when a strong earthquake is felt,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Immediate self-evacuation is the key to survival for near-field tsunamis. People must know to head for high ground as quickly as possible.” 
Wendy Watson-Wright, UNESCO Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), confirmed that the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System issued timely tsunami alert messages on this event. The national system for Indonesia, the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System (InaTEWS) issued the first warning to national authorities within five minutes of the sub-sea earthquake, which allowed many communities to take the necessary precautions. 
However, as the centre of the earthquake and tsunami was located just a few kilometers off the Indonesian islands of Mentawai, even the very swift warning from Indonesian authorities could not reach the fishing villages on Pagai or Sipora before the tsunami hit the shore. 
Since 2004, a vast amount of work has been done to establish an effective warning system for the Indian Ocean. We have state-of-the-art equipment in the water that allows us to know very quickly if a tsunami has been generated, and a range of alert mechanisms have been put into place in coastal areas make sure official warnings reach local populations. But we still have a great deal of awareness raising and public information work ahead to make sure we go the last mile and reach the most vulnerable communities,” said Watson-Wright. 
UNESCO-IOC established the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System following the 2004 earthquake and tsunami off the shores of Indonesia that took the lives of over 200,000 people. Warnings for the system are presently issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre based in Hawaii and the Japanese North-West Pacific Tsunami Advisory Centre based in Tokyo.

UNESCO-IOC Workshops on Preparedness and Awareness of Makran Tsunami Hazards


makranUNESCO IOC has received funding from the UNESCAP Multi-donor Voluntary Trust Fund to conduct a project called “Assessment and Awareness of Makran Tsunami Hazards. The project was designed to build capacity in Iran and Pakistan for palaeotsunami studies of the Makran region and collect eyewitness accounts from the tsunami that impacted the Makran coast in 1945.

The project started with Preparedness and Awareness workshops in Iran and Pakistan. In holding the workshops, the ICG/IOTWS Secretariat worked closely with the host agency in the respective countries. The workshop in Iran was hosted by the Iranian National Institute of Oceanography (INIO) in Tehran, 1-5 May 2010, while the workshop in Pakistan was hosted by the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) Karachi from 19-23 July 2010.

The aim of the 5-day workshops was to introduce the history of tsunamis in the Makran region, explore the potential for future events, and showcase some best practices in awareness and education which have been applied in other countries, such as Indonesia, Thailand, and others. The trainers for the workshop included international tsunami experts from India, Indonesia, Thailand, USA, and Yemen.

To follow on from the preparedness workshops, a field workshop along the Makran coast will be conducted in Iran, 9-20 October 2010. The field workshop will comprise of palaeotsunami survey and interview of eyewitness accounts of 1945 Makran tsunami. Results of the workshop will be incorporated into tsunami modeling studies, risk assessments and educational materials.

Advances from the DIPECHO VI Project: Adaptive Learning Mechanism on Tsunami Preparedness at Community Level in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile

To date, the Project implemented by the UNESCO under the European Comission Sixth Action Plan in Disaster Preparedness, has completed over 90% of the activities proposed. One of the most important phases has been the conduction during August and September 2010 of workshops to strengthen local preparedness and national emergency plan against tsunamis. Local and regional communities, especially school communities and social organizations located in areas at risk of tsunami, participated at the workshops. The analysis and discussions mainly focused on school safety plans and family security plans. Participants made the commitment to disseminate the knowledge they gained at the workshop to their families and communities.

dipechoIn Chile, in coordination with the ONEMI, Ministry of Education and the Concepción University, 6 workshops involved 258 students, 59 teachers and 104 representatives of organizations belonging to the towns of Tome, Penco and Coronel in the Bío Bío Region. In Peru, in coordination with the Ministry of Education, Regional Government of Callao and Practical Action, school principals and teachers of 11 institutions of the Callao Region participated at a workshop aiming to establish mechanisms to include disaster risk reduction strategies into school curricula. The workshop promoted the implementation of community-based disaster risk reduction plans and mainly focused on earthquakes and tsunamis. It is important to recall that the Callao Region is highly vulnerable to these natural hazards.

The final report of the project including the results of the four participating countries will be available later this year. More information about the project is now available on the UNESCO website.

National Multi Hazard Early Warning System (NMHEWS) in Oman

Sea Level Monitoring Station in Muscat, Sultanate of OmanOn 22 October 2009, UNESCO signed an MoU with the Ministry of Transports and Communications of the Sultanate of Oman which established the conditions of a self-benefiting Fund in Trust to set up a National Multi Hazard Early Warning System (SbFiT NMHEWS) in Oman. The technical missions conducted by the IOC on the request of Oman since 2005 addressed the risk for Oman from tsunami near-field seismic sources such as the Makran source. The project aims at supporting the Direction of Meteorology of Oman (DGMAN) to build a brand new NMHEW Center focused initially on tsunami hazard.  It is planned for a period of two years and covers 9 components: (i) NHMEWC staff Terms of Reference (ii) Sea Level Monitoring Network (iii) Seismic Monitoring Network (iv) Communication system for warning dissemination, (v) Education and public awareness, (vi) Bathymetry and Topography, Risk Assessment, (vii) Computers and hardware, (viii) Hazard and Modelling and (ix) IOTWS Coordination.The kick off mission for the project was conducted from 2-8 September, 2010  Not less than six new multi-use sea level stations will be installed in the coast of Oman during the period 2010-2011. In addition, tsunami hazard maps will be developed.

 

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