Building peace in the minds of men and women

Raising tsunami-awareness in the Mediterranean

The recent events in the Pacific and Indian Oceans have led nations worldwide to reflect on their capacity to respond to such events: while we cannot prevent the occurrence of tsunamis, we can improve our response, and, in doing so, save lives. Tsunamis are a rare occurrence in the Mediterranean, leading to a lack of awareness and preparedness that put these densely populated coasts at greater risk. Since 1840, roughly 10% of all tsunamis have occurred in the Mediterranean, causing extensive loss of lives and properties.

The Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the North-eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and connected seas is one of four such warning systems coordinated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO). Tsunami warning systems must go hand in hand with awareness and preparedness of the general public. As part of this process, a Tsunami Information Centre (NEAMTIC) was established to provide information on warning systems, risks and good practices in respect of tsunamis and other sea-level related hazards for civil protection agencies, disaster management, decision makers, schools, industries in the coastal zone and the general public.

With the support of the European Commission, NEAMTIC developed educational material and activities to improve the preparedness of citizens, especially youth, and civil protection authorities. The main results of the project were presented to representatives of the European Commission, Member States and the European Parliament during a workshop in Brussels, Belgium, on 25 April 2013. The tools developed include an online course, games, guidelines, a video, case studies and posters. They will be made available on the NEAMTIC website and its virtual library in several languages, including Arabic and French.

The Mediterranean is the world's leading tourism destination, with a highly populated coastal zone, many industrial centres and some of the largest ports in the world. While rare, tsunamis rank among the most life-threatening of all natural disasters, and Europe lags behind in disaster preparedness when compared to other tsunami-prone regions. Through NEAMTIC, IOC-UNESCO is contributing to enhance the capacity of Member States to be equipped for such a risk in partnership with the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique (CEA), France; the National Observatory of Athens (NOA), Greece; the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri Dipartimento della Protezione Civile (DPC), Italy; and the Fundação da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa (FFCUL), Portugal.

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