Tsunami drill tests real-time preparedness
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.