Oman launches an early warning system to address natural disasters

The Sultanate of Oman launched a National Multi Hazard Early Warning System (NMHEWS) on 23 March. This system, implemented with the technical support of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, was designed to respond to natural hazards, including tsunamis, cyclones and flash floods.

The system is the result of a collaboration between IOC-UNESCO and Oman that began in 2009. It will support monitoring, data processing and Standard Operating Procedures, as well as training of personnel and the operation of sea-level stations. Since 2010, IOC-UNESCO and the Omani government have also been collaborating in the development of a Tsunami Early Warning System as part of the over-all multi-hazard early warning system.

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Collaboration between Oman and IOC-UNESCO included training of personnel. © IOC-UNESCO/ Fauzi Fauzi

Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of IOC-UNESCO, pointed out that one of the conclusions of the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which closed just a few days before in Sendai, Japan, was that multi-hazard early warning systems such as this one should be the mainstream approach in dealing with natural disasters and with risk associated with human activities.

“Multi-hazard systems allow us to address multiple coastal zone risks efficiently,” he continued, “and Oman is now a proud operator of one of the most modern among such systems. This cooperation project, on the setup of the warning system, has also been very special for IOC. On behalf of UNESCO and its IOC, let me wish you all a very successful and sustainable operation of the System, for benefit of people of Oman and the whole region. We look forwarding to our continuing cooperation.”

the Government of Oman through is now inviting neighboring countries to share data to improve the management risks related to tsunamis and tropical cyclones in the region.

The launch of the system coincided with a two-day scientific regional conference (on 22-23 March), followed by the 10th Session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/IOTWS-X) on 24-26 March, which will bring together representatives of over 20 of the countries in the region.
The regional conference entitled Reducing Tsunami Risk in the Western Indian Ocean will cover, in particular, the history of Makran tsunamis, natural hazard assessment in the region, and the functions of the newly implemented warning system.  

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Launch of the National Multi Hazard Early Warning System in Muscat, Oman, on 23 March 2015. © IOC-UNESCO/ Bernardo Aliaga

The Makran Subduction Zone, an active boundary between tectonic plates, is believed to pose a tsunami hazard in the western Indian Ocean, but the nature of this hazard is still poorly understood. The plate-boundary thrust in the eastern part of the zone produced an earthquake and associated tsunami in 1945. A smaller tsunami occurred in the same region much more recently, in September 2013, in conjunction with the formation of an ephemeral island off the coast of Pakistan. Oman is also subject to far-field tsunamis from the Sunda Trench, as well as tropical cyclones and flash floods.