The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Caribbean Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CTO) Hugh Ri­ley has called on Caribbean states to take tsunami pre­pared­ness se­ri­ously, stat­ing to do oth­er­wise would put the peo­ple and re­gional economies at risk.

Speak­ing in Paris, France, dur­ing a dis­cus­sion or­gan­ised by the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion (UN­ESCO) to raise aware­ness of the threats posed by tsunamis, Ri­ley in­sisted that Caribbean coun­tries risked pay­ing the price for com­pla­cency.

He stressed that with the Caribbean be­ing com­prised mainly of low-ly­ing states, and with most tourism as­sets and ho­tel in­vest­ments lo­cated at or near coastal ar­eas, the tourism sec­tor is ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble to the threat of tsunamis.

“Tourism is the main eco­nomic driver of the Caribbean, rep­re­sent­ing 80 per cent of the re­gion’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct and more than one mil­lion jobs so we can­not ig­nore a tsunami risk,” he told fel­low pan­elists and the wider au­di­ence, which in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Gre­nada, Saint Lucia and St. Vin­cent & the Gre­nadines.

“Com­pla­cency puts us in real dan­ger and we must raise the Caribbean’s voice by ad­vo­cat­ing for our mem­bers dur­ing this im­por­tant global fo­rum,” he added.

The event was be­ing held in ad­vance of World Tsunami Aware­ness Day on 5 Novem­ber 2018. The sec­re­tary gen­eral noted that the re­gion had ex­pe­ri­enced 11 tsunamis in the past, the most re­cent of which oc­curred in 2010, and six be­tween 1902 and 1997.

He sug­gested that be­cause there has been no “re­cent” im­pact on the re­gion, tsunamis are not con­sid­ered an im­mi­nent threat, there­fore, they are not given suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion.

He called for an in­crease in tsunami aware­ness and sen­si­ti­sa­tion of the tourism sec­tor and the wider Caribbean com­mu­nity, as well as sup­port for train­ing by re­gional in­sti­tu­tions and coun­tries to de­velop pre­pared­ness and re­sponse pro­to­cols.

“The CTO recog­nises that tsunami pre­pared­ness is crit­i­cal, which in­cludes well-es­tab­lished and tested re­sponse pro­to­cols which will ul­ti­mately re­duce loss of life and eco­nomic dam­age. We also need to en­hance col­lab­o­ra­tion with coun­tries re­cently and fre­quently im­pacted by tsunami haz­ards in or­der to de­velop best prac­tices.”

Ri­ley high­lighted sev­eral CTO mem­bers’ tsunami readi­ness ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing An­guilla, the first English­s­peak­ing Caribbean is­land to be recog­nised as “tsunami ready” in Septem­ber 2011 and which has main­tained cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sta­tus. Since then the British Vir­gin Is­lands and St. Kitts and Ne­vis have re­ceived sim­i­lar recog­ni­tion, all hav­ing es­tab­lished emer­gency op­er­at­ing cen­tres, na­tional tsunami plans, pub­lic out­reach and alert sys­tems, pub­lic ser­vice in­for­ma­tion pro­grammes and tsunami pre­pared­ness and re­sponse pro­to­cols.

The high-level panel was or­gan­ised by UN­ESCO’s In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Oceano­graphic Com­mis­sion (IOC) and the United Na­tions Of­fice for Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion (UNISDR) to dis­cuss poli­cies and prac­tices to re­duce tsunami risks in coun­tries highly de­pen­dent on tourism rev­enue.

The meet­ing opened with a minute’s si­lence in me­mory of the 2,000 con­firmed dead and 680 of­fi­cially miss­ing in the tsunami and earth­quake which struck In­done­sia on 28 Septem­ber 2018. The dou­ble dis­as­ter left al­most 70,000 peo­ple home­less and 11,000 in­jured in the In­done­sian cities of Palu and Dong­gala in Cen­tral Su­lawesi.

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