More than 30 Pacific Rim countries are taking part in a United Nations-backed tsunami warning exercise to improve their ability to respond to alerts and coordinate regional action in the event of a disaster. According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is coordinating the two-week long warning exercise through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), around 75 per cent of the world’s tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean and connected seas.
UNESCO says the region has been struck by four tsunamis in the past five years: Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga were hit in 2009; Chile in 2010; Japan in 2011; and the Solomon Islands in 2013. In addition, an average of one or two local tsunamis has struck worldwide every year over the past century.
The test, which runs from 1 May to 14 May, comes on the heels of a similar tsunami warning exercise conducted in the Caribbean in March and will aim to validate new tsunami forecasting products slated for adoption next year.
In a news release confirming the test, called Exercise Pacific Wave 2013, UNESCO noted that the enhancements would help the 39 countries involved improve their response capability in the event of a tsunami and were “to reduce significantly the number of areas warned unnecessarily and to help provide advanced notice of potential local tsunamis.”
Exercise Pacific Wave 2013, also known as PacWave13, will simulate a tsunami warning situation requiring Government decision-making regarding three scenarios for possible earthquakes occurring either off the northern coasts of Japan, the Philippines or Chile, which will generate destructive tsunamis, said UNESCO.
Each Pacific country participating in the exercise will select one of these three scenarios with the evaluation of the outcome expected for 31 May.