Peru and Pacific Rim countries stage UNESCO-sponsored tsunami warning drill

Peru, the U.S., Chile, China, and more than 15 other countries around the Pacific Rim will take part in “Exercise Pacific Wave 08,” a two-day pre-arranged tsunami scenario designed to test the UNESCO-established Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, the UN reported.

Exercise Pacific Wave 08, planned for October 28-30, will simulate a tsunami warning situation, requiring participating countries to make decisions and take all of the preliminary steps short of alerting the public.

The drill’s aim is to evaluate the warning system, increase preparedness and improve coordination throughout the region. It will also help identify operational strengths and weaknesses in each country.

According to the scenario, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake located off Japan’s northeast coast will trigger a major tsunami. It will spread in real time across the entire Pacific, taking approximately 24 hours to travel from Japan to the west coast of South America and Peru.

During the drill, bulletins will be issued by the tsunami advisory and warning centres in Tokyo, Japan, Hawaii and Alaska, and sent to focal points responsible for tsunami response.

In Peru, the alert will be sent on Wednesday to the Peruvian Navy’s Hydrography and Navegation Unit. The Navy will then transmit the warning to various Peruvian ports and Civil Defense committees.

“The region of Callao will complement these activities with school workshops and the distribution of brochures in order to inform the local population about evacuation procedures,” said National Defense Police Chief, general David Llanos Rodríguez.

“While in reality only a subset of countries would be affected by a real-life tsunami,” the UN reports, “all have been encouraged to take part in the drill as it is the Pacific region that is struck by the most frequent and destructive tsunamis.”

The drill was recommended in October 2007 by member States attending the 22nd session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System held in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The warning system was established by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in 1965, to promote exchange of seismic and sea level data for rapid tsunami detection.

“With the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster providing a stark reminder of the need for preparedness,” reports the UN, “today’s tsunami test will be the second of such exercises.” The first was conducted in May 2006.

Following the December 26 tsunami in 2004, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission helped countries of the Indian Ocean rim set up their own Tsunami Early Warning System, which was also followed by the creation of similar networks in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Northeast Atlantic Ocean and connected seas.

Participating countries in this week’s exercise include Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, (French Polynesia and New Caledonia), Nicaragua, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Niue, Peru, Russian Federation, Samoa, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand and the United States, the island of Yap, and the Federation of Micronesia.

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