Improving Tsunami Warning and Emergency Response in the North-Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and connected seas

Representatives of governmental, scientific and emergency management institutions from the Maghreb countries gathered in Rabat (Morocco) on 23-24 September 2014 for a workshop on tsunami warning and emergency response in the region. The aim was to present the recent developments of the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the North-Eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas (NEAMTWS) and prepare for the next tsunami exercise, NEAMWave14, which will take place on 28-30 October 2014.

The workshop, organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO together with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the UNESCO Rabat office and the Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique et Technique of Morocco and was opened by Lahcen Daoudi, Minister of Education and Scientific Research of Morocco, together with the Deputy Director General of ISESCO, the Director of the UNESCO Rabat office the Head of the IOC Tsunami Unit.

Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian experts presented their current efforts towards the creation of national tsunami warning centres and recommended that official tsunami focal points should be designated as soon as possible for the Maghreb countries. Appointing national focal points will allow them to actively participate in NEAMTWS and to subscribe to the tsunami watch services provided for the region by the French, Greek, Italian and Turkish tsunami watch providers, to receive timely alerts and be better prepared to address tsunami threats.

Tsunamis linked to seismic activity have been observed in the Mediterranean and North-eastern Atlantic over the centuries, albeit less frequently than in the Pacific Ocean. On 21 May 2003, a tsunami struck the shores of Algeria and Spain’s Balearic Islands with waves ranging from one to several metres that also impacted ports on the French Riviera.

The Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the North-eastern Atlantic is one of four such warning systems coordinated by IOC-UNESCO. The others are situated in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean. Their purpose is to assess risks, issue and relay warning signals and contribute to the education of populations at risk.

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