SA joins other countries in tsunami exercise

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pretoria - Eighteen countries bordering the Indian Ocean, including South Africa, are today taking part in an exercise to test a tsunami early warning system.

Dubbed "Exercise Indian Ocean Wave 09," the United Nations-backed initiative will simulate a warning for a tsunami similar to the 2004 wave which killed more than 300 000 people.

The exercise will test alarm procedures and overall preparedness from countries along the Indian Ocean.

In a statement, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said the drill was the first comprehensive test and evaluation of the warning system.

The exercise had been designed to highlight faults and identify areas for improvement.

The simulated tsunami will spread in real time across the entire Indian Ocean, taking around 12 hours to travel from Indonesia to the South African coast, the UNESCO said.

Bulletins on seismic and sea level data will be sent from the Japan Meteorogical Agency in Tokyo and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, to national tsunami warning centres across the Indian Ocean.

Newly-established watch centres in Australia, India and Indonesia, which are due in the near future to take over from Hawaii and Tokyo as monitors for the region, will also take part, share data among themselves.

UNESCO said the exercise would allow states to test communication channels with regional alert centres, and identify weaknesses in warning and emergency procedures.

The test comes two weeks after a tsunami smashed into the Pacific islands of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, killing at about 183 people.

Participating countries include: Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Timor Leste.