March 25 emergency agencies on the Atlantic and Caribbean will be holding two drills in which fictional tsunamis hit the coast of the Americas.
One tsunami, generated by an 8.5 magnitude earthquake, is planned off the coast of Panamá and close to the Costa Rican Caribbean coast. The second rehearsal the same day involves a tsunami hitting the Florida coast.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, an agency of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is supervising.
The dual exercise is called Caribe Wave 15, and it is designed to test the warning system and official responses.
The commission said that in case of tsunamis, the distribution of information to the public is crucial. The agency also urged educational programs in schools and coastal communities.
The agency said that in the last 500 years there have been 75 tsunamis recorded in the Caribbean. They are produced by seaquakes, earthquakes and the collapse of material into the ocean. Since the 19th century tsunamis have caused 4,000 deaths in the region, the commission said, citing statistics from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In recent years development and tourism in coastal areas has increased the vulnerability, said the commission.
The first emergency drill was in 2011. The commission itself was created in 2005 along the lines of a similar agency in the Pacific.
A.M. Costa Rica reported on tsunamis last March 6. A news article said that evidence indicates the Yucatan Peninsula was hit by a tsunami 1,500 years ago. The coastal area was devastated.
There are several lines of evidence for an ancient tsunami, including a large, wedge-shaped berm about 15 feet above sea level paved with washing machine-sized stones, said the University of Colorado in a release.
Set back in places more than a quarter of a mile from shore, the berm stretches for at least 30 miles, alternating between rocky headlands and crescent beaches as it tracks the outline of the Caribbean coast near the plush resorts of Playa del Carmen and Cancun, said the university.
The last recorded tsunami here was actually just south in Panamá. A summary said that in April 22, 1991, at Bocas del Toro, Panamá, people reported that the sea receded less than 10 minutes after the Limón earthquake to the north.
There was some damage when the sea returned.