The Tsunami Warning System established under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO in the Indian Ocean following the December 2004 disaster is functioning effectively.
This was demonstrated in a simulation exercise conducted on 9 and 10 September 2014, with the participation of 24 countries of the Indian Ocean Rim*.
According to the preliminary results of the simulated alert, all of the participating countries received timely tsunami advisory messages, and no delays were reported.
Notification messages were issued by the Indian Ocean Regional Tsunami Service Providers (Australia, India and Indonesia) and sent to National Tsunami Warning Centres.
On this basis, most of the participating countries successfully conducted exercises involving the national tsunami warning, disaster management and main emergency response organisations. Several countries also chose to involve the general public in the exercise, including India, Mauritius and the Seychelles, where evacuation exercises were conducted in coastal areas. Tourists and personnel were evacuated from a hotel in Mauritius. A full evaluation report of the exercise will be published in November 2014.
“The terrible images of the 2004 Tsunami are still fresh in our memories. Ten years later, this new warning exercise demonstrates that the efforts of the Indian Ocean Rim countries to be better prepared for such disasters are bearing fruit. The warning system established under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is a major achievement of global scientific cooperation that can help to save lives” declared UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova.
“The Indian Ocean tsunami warning system is the result of significant international collaboration and contributions from countries all around the Indian Ocean in response to the devastating tsunami of December 2004. Countries now need to sustain the tsunami warning system, community education and response capability that have been developed across the Indian Ocean. Countries must remain alert and prepared against the ever present tsunami threat”, said Rick Bailey, Chair of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System.
The exercise, known as « IOWAVE14», comprised two scenarios: the first simulated an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 south of Java, in Indonesia, on 9 September (00:00 UTC), while the second scenario simulated an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 in the Makran Trench south of Iran and Pakistan. In both cases, the earthquakes would have resulted in a tsunami affecting the entire Indian Ocean.
This test was designed to assess the effectiveness of communication flows between the stakeholders involved, country readiness and the efficiency of emergency procedures.
The Indian Ocean nations called for the establishment of an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS) in the wake of the 2004 catastrophe. An Intergovernmental Coordination Group was established in 2005 with the support of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission to provide a governance mechanism for the new System, which became operational in 2011.
*To date : Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, France (Réunion), India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Yemen.
Media contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO press service. Tel : +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64. Email : a.bardon(at)unesco.org