Colombia will take part Wednesday in a simulated tsunami alert, along with 32 other Caribbean countries, in order to test the capabilities of the region’s coastal nations in withstanding any potential threat following the devastating tsunami in Japan, announced UNESCO.
The exercise will consist of an alert for a fictitious 7.6-magnitude earthquake off the coast of the American Virgin Islands, in order to test the region’s defense mechanisms which were established in 2005 in collaboration with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
The so-called “Caribe Wave 11” scenario will not involve local communities but rather aims to test the effectiveness and efficiency of alert, monitoring and warning systems among all the emergency management organizations, with an emphasis on the rapid transmission of information.
“The earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan has shown how essential alert systems are,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “In this context the development of a coordinated system in the Caribbean is more relevant than ever, enabling coastal countries to prepare in the event of such a disaster and to save human lives,” she continued.
Previous simulated tsunamis have been carried out in the Pacific Ocean in 2008 and the Indian Ocean in 2009, although this will be the first such exercise in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean has endured 75 tsunamis over the course of the last 500 years, representing about 10% of the global oceanic tsunamis during the same period. Since the mid-19th century, some 3500 people have lost their lives to tsunamis, while experts have warned that an explosion in population growth, coupled with an expansion in tourism, has increased the region’s vulnerability in recent decades.