Mr. Antoine Onezime, CEO of Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation which will play a pivotal role in tomorrow's Indian Ocean tsunami simulation exercise
By Brigitte Leoni
PORT VICTORIA, Seychelles, 6 September 2016 - Even though there are parliamentary elections in the country this week, the Seychelles, like 23 other countries around the Indian Ocean, is mobilizing broadcast and print media to take an active part in one of the largest tsunami drills ever undertaken.
The Indian Ocean Wave simulation called IOWave16 organised by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is part of the build up to World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5, and International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13 which is focused this year on reducing disaster mortality.
The drill in the Seychelles tomorrow will include a tsunami warning and will simulate giant tsunami waves travelling across the Indian Ocean towards the Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands.
“Despite the parliamentary elections that will start almost at the same time (8 sept), we are ready and will deploy at least three teams to cover the mock tsunami scenario tomorrow morning at 7 am,” said Mr. Antoine Onezime, CEO of the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation, the main TV and radio station of the Seychelles.
“We belong to the public service and as such we all consider that it is our duty to serve communities and help them to be better prepared against disasters, “ explained Mr. Onezine who is also a member of the National Disaster Management Committee and one of the most active players in the early warning systems in Seychelles.
Trained and specialized in environmental issues when he was a reporter, Mr. Onezine believes that media are essential partners in the early warning chain and have a critical role to educate the public on disaster risks.
“Our first mission is to inform and to produce news but we can help bridging the gap between governments and educators. Climate change is changing everything and is also less predictable so we have no choice. We need to change the way we are talking to people. We are already doing it at SBC and our audiences are beginning to understand and follow us.
“The minute we receive the alert from the met service, we start broadcasting messages 24 hours a day to warn populations about their risks and keep them informed on what to do. The last time was in April during the Fantala cyclone, which caused enormous damage in Mahe. We opened our airtime to disaster managers so people were constantly updated and connected,“ he said.
This will be the third tsunami simulation staged in the Seychelle since the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 which claimed some 230,000 lives.
“We are definitely raising awareness on disaster and tsunami issues but I still have some concerns about our coordination and evacuation plans as we are not ready yet,” said Mr. Onezime.
This feeling is shared by Ms. Regina Prosper, from the Seychelles Disaster Management team. “This is why we are doing another simulation. We are aware that too many drills can create a certain fatigue but our main goal is to measure the capacity and response times of the meteorological service, the media, the police, fire brigades and emergency teams, local authorities and main service providers such as transport, port authorities, airport, hotels, schools and hospitals to address such rare but potentially destructive events,” she said.
The simulation based on an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2 south of Sumatra, Indonesia,will start at 7 a.m. tomorrow and will last till 3 p.m. and will involve more than 1,000 key persons who play a major role in ensuring the main services of Mahe and other main islands. Other national media such as the The Nation newspaper will also participate in the mock exercise.