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UNESCO Member States in the Indian Ocean to test tsunami warning system

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Té / 7 October 2009

Eighteen countries around the Indian Ocean will participate in an ocean-wide tsunami exercise on 14 October to coincide with World Disaster Reduction Day. The exercise will for the first time test and evaluate the effectiveness of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS), established in response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami on December 26, 2004. It will identify weaknesses and areas for improvement. It aims to increase preparedness and improve coordination throughout the region. Following a UNESCO press release.

“Exercise Indian Ocean Wave 09” will provide an opportunity for Indian Ocean countries to test their operational lines of communications, review their tsunami warning and emergency response standard operating procedures, and promote emergency preparedness. [1]

The exercise scenario will replicate the magnitude 9.2 earthquake that occurred off the northwest coast of Sumatra, Indonesia in 2004, generating a destructive tsunami affecting countries from Australia to South Africa. The simulated tsunami will spread in real time across the entire Indian Ocean, taking approximately 12 hours to travel from Indonesia to the coast of South Africa. Bulletins will be issued by the Japan Meteorogical Agency (JMA) in Tokyo and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii, USA, which have served as the interim advisory services since 2005. The bulletins will be sent to the focal points in the National Tsunami Warning Centres (NTWC) responsible for tsunami response in the countries concerned. All countries in the region have been encouraged to participate.

The recently established Regional Tsunami Watch Providers (RTWP) in Australia, India and Indonesia will also participate in the exercise and will share experimental real time bulletins between themselves only. RTWPs are called to replace in the near future the interim service currently provided from Hawaii (PTWC) and Tokyo (JMA). The RTWPs will provide examples of the new types of products being developed for use in the Indian Ocean region and will invite feedback and comments from the IOTWS Member States.

The main purpose of Exercise IOWave09 is to test national standard operating procedures and the operational lines of communication between the NTWCs and JMA and PTWC. Several Member States have indicated that they intend to conduct the exercise through to community level, including limited evacuation of selected coastal communities. Such “end-to-end” conduct of the exercise will test the standard operating procedures and communications links at all levels of the warning chain and will involve detailed pre-planning of the exercise at the national to local level.
Exercise IOWave09 was recommended by Member States attending the 5th Session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/IOTWS) held in Putrajaya, Malaysia, in April 2008.

The ICG/IOTWS was established by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in 2005, to promote exchange of seismic and sea level data for rapid tsunami detection, to provide warnings and to coordinate mitigation efforts among Member States. At the same time IOC began coordinating the creation of similar systems in the Caribbean (CARIBE-EWS) and the Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic Ocean and connected Seas (NEAMTWS). The IOC has been coordinating the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (PTWS) since 1965.

This exercise takes place in the wake of the tsunami that killed more than 100 people in Samoa on Tuesday 29 September, providing a sober reminder that coastal communities everywhere need to be aware and prepared for such events.

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