Pacific Rim countries stage UNinitiated tsunami warning drill

28 October 2008More than 20 countries around the Pacific Rim will participate today in a United Nations-initiated tsunami warning scenario, with the aim of increasing preparedness and improving coordination throughout the region of current warning procedures. The staged tsunami drill, “Exercise Pacific Wave 08,” will involve two days of testing the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (PTWS) – a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established network to promote the exchange of seismic and sea level data for rapid tsunami detection. With the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster providing a stark reminder of the need for preparedness, today’s tsunami test will be the second of such exercises, the first conducted in May 2006. Member States will be required to make decisions and take preliminary steps short of alerting the public, thus testing current warning systems and helping to identify operational strengths and weaknesses in each country.According to the scenario, a powerful earthquake located off Japan’s northeast coast will generate the simulated major tsunami spreading in real time across the entire Pacific, taking 24 hours to reach the coast of South America.During this activity, bulletins will be issued by the tsunami advisory and warning centres in Tokyo, Japan and Hawaii and Alaska in the United States, and sent to focal points responsible for tsunami response in the countries concerned.While in reality only a subset of countries would be affected by a real-life tsunami, all have been encouraged to take part in the drill as it is the Pacific region that is struck by the most frequent and destructive tsunamis.Participants in the tsunami drill include Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France (French Polynesia and New Caledonia), Nicaragua, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Niue, Peru, Russian Federation, Samoa, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United States, the island of Yap, and the Federation of Micronesia. Following the 2004 tsunami, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) helped countries of the Indian Ocean rim set up their own Tsunami Early Warning System (IOTWS), which was also followed by the creation of similar networks in the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic Ocean and connected seas.

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