Pacific Rim countries will test responses to tsunami threats

Some 30 Pacific Rim countries are to take part next week in a United Nations-backed tsunami warning exercise to improve their ability to respond to an alert and enhance regional coordination in the event of a disaster.

Most tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean and connected seas, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Three tsunamis have struck that region recently – Samoa in 2009, Chile in 2010 and Japan in 2011.

The test scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, known as PacWave11, is organized under the aegis of the U.N. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and will be carried out in two phases.

In its first phase, the exercise will consist of nine different scenarios to allow each participating country to respond to a regional or local source tsunami based on powerful earthquake events generated off the shores of the Philippines, Vanuatu, Tonga, Ecuador, Central America or Japan’s Ryukyu Islands.
Countries engaged in the test will choose one of these scenarios and opt for a region or local event to which they would have to react.

In the second phase, which will be carried out simultaneously after receipt of warning messages, the authorities will test all the necessary steps to respond to a warning prior to alerting the public.

Simulated warnings will be sent out to national focal points by the Northwest Pacific Tsunami Advisory Centre in Japan and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, both in the United States.

The Commission set up the International Coordination Group for the Tsunami Warning System in the Pacific in 1965, following the major tsunami of 1960 that hit the coast of Chile and claimed close to 5,000 lives. The purpose of the group is to coordinate the development of the Pacific tsunami warning systems and to promote the establishment of national risk assessments, alert and response programs, said the U.N.

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