Tsunami drill tests real-time pre­pared­ness

The Myanmar Times - - News - NICK BAKER n.baker@mm­times.com

MYAN­MAR is one of 24 coun­tries in­volved in a two-day sim­u­la­tion of what could be the largest tsunami drill ever staged.

The ex­er­cise, or­gan­ised by United Na­tions agen­cies, is test­ing two sce­nar­ios – the first sim­u­lates a 9.2mag­ni­tude earth­quake near the is­land of Su­ma­tra in In­done­sia, and the sec­ond sim­u­lates a 9.0-mag­ni­tude earth­quake south of Iran and Pak­istan.

Once trig­gered, vir­tual tsunami waves travel across the In­dian Ocean in a real-time sched­ule.

The tests, car­ried out yes­ter­day and to­day, are meant to as­sess ear­ly­warn­ing sys­tems and how var­i­ous lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional dis­as­ter man­age­ment en­ti­ties re­spond along the way.

For the Myan­mar drill, three gov­ern­ment de­part­ments have staff work­ing on com­mu­ni­ca­tion ex­er­cises as the waves ap­proach.

More than 50,000 peo­ple in to­tal are in­volved in the drill. Sev­eral coun­tries – not in­clud­ing Myan­mar – are also car­ry­ing out evac­u­a­tions in coastal ar­eas.

“Myan­mar is at tsunami risk due to its num­ber of shores and prox­im­ity of In­done­sia and the north­ern Bay of Ben­gal which are seis­mic zones,” spokesper­son for the UN Of­fice for Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion Brigitte Leoni told The Myan­mar Times from the Sey­chelles Na­tional Tsunami Warn­ing Cen­tre.

“Drills are essen­tial to test the pre­pared­ness and re­sponse of all the ac­tors in­volved in the early-warn­ing chain.”

Others stressed the im­por­tance of Myan­mar’s in­volve­ment, as the coun­try was sub­ject to one of the worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in recorded his­tory in 2008.

“Myan­mar’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the tsunami ex­er­cise is a wel­come sign that the coun­try is con­tin­u­ing to em­brace dis­as­ter risk-re­duc­tion strate­gies since the tragedy of Cy­clone Nargis [which] caught the coun­try largely un­pre­pared for a nat­u­ral haz­ard of that scale,” said UN Of­fice for Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion chief of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and out­reach Denis McClean.

Head of the tsunami unit at the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Oceano­graphic Com­mis­sion Thork­ild Aarup said that Rakhine and Mon state as well as Aye­yarwady, Tanintharyi and Yan­gon re­gions were all “ar­eas that can be af­fected by tsunamis” in the fu­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to the Red Cross, tsunami warn­ing signs can in­clude a strong earth­quake last­ing 20 sec­onds or more near the coast, or a no­tice­able rapid rise or fall in coastal wa­ter.

“Get to higher ground as far in­land as pos­si­ble,” ma­te­rial from the Red Cross ad­vises.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion also rec­om­mended plan­ning evac­u­a­tion routes from homes, schools and work­places where tsunamis present a risk.

Sev­eral na­tions called for the es­tab­lish­ment of an early-warn­ing sys­tem in the wake of the 2004 In­dian Ocean tsunami which claimed some 230,000 lives. The new sys­tem be­came op­er­a­tional in 2011.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Oceano­graphic Com­mis­sion, the 2004 tsunami dis­as­ter killed 61 peo­ple in Myan­mar – 32 of them in Aye­yarwady Re­gion, 27 in Thanintharyi Re­gion and two in the Rakhine State. In ad­di­tion, 601 houses were de­stroyed.

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