The control room at the Portugese National Tsunami Warning Center (seismic & tsunami section) (Photo: Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera, I.P.)
GENEVA, 3 November 2017
– Portugal is to formally open a National Tsunami Warning Centre on November 21, which will extend Europe’s capacity to issue tsunami alerts to its citizens. This center will monitor an area where a large earthquake followed by a big tsunami destroyed Lisbon in 1755.
At the same time there is concern that only 16 of the 39 countries at risk in the North East Atlantic, Mediterranean and connected seas (NEAM) region have subscribed to the Tsunami Early Warning Services currently offered by France, Greece, Italy and Turkey under the coordination of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.
In advance of the World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5, 2017, the Head of the IOC Tsunami Unit, Mr. Thorkild Aarup said: “Significant progress has been made since 2005 in the development of the NEAM tsunami warning and mitigation system. The system is operational and the Tsunami Service Providers in France, Greece, Italy and Turkey send out alerts to countries in the region that wish to subscribe to this service.
“We are using the occasion of World Tsunami Preparedness Day to appeal to all Member States in the NEAM region at risk of tsunamis, to start using the services available to them.”
This appeal was supported today by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mr. Robert Glasser: “The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami marked a turning point in political commitment to tsunami early warning systems following the deaths of 230,000 people.
“There is no doubt that the death toll from that rare but inevitable event would have been reduced considerably if today’s Indian Ocean tsunami warning system had been in place then. There are now also systems in place in the Caribbean and in the NEAM region and I encourage all nations to make full use of the systems and to be tsunami ready. In the long run this will save lives and reduce economic losses in regions where the risk remains acute even if there is a long interval between tsunamis.”
Since the year 2000, more than 11 million people have been affected by tsunamis and these have resulted in some 250,000 deaths with the highest death tolls in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Japan, India and Thailand.