07.08.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Honduras holds second regional tsunami simulation

©COPECO: Students participating in tsunami simulation.

7 August 2017 - The inhabitants of the Honduran municipality of Omoa, in the department of Cortés, participated last Friday in a full scale tsunami evacuation drill, to perfect their knowledge in issues of Early Warning Systems (EWS).

Prior to the simulation, relief bodies, private companies, settlers and local and municipal authorities attended the 4-day workshop on “formation and training of tsunami action team at the local level," aimed at educating the people of Omoa on what to do in the event of a tsunami. The community is located in one of the most at-risk regions of Honduras, facing an important geologic fault.

“The important thing is for the Omoa community to reflect what has been learned in these workshops, it is crucial to learn how to prepare contingency plans, maps, and early warning mechanisms against tsunami waves. These tools will serve them for life, as long as they are constantly updated,” added Leonardo Serrano, Omoa’s Deputy Mayor and coordinator of the Municipal Emergency Committee (CODEM).

The workshop was held within the framework of the DIPECHO project "Building Resilient Communities and Integrated Tsunami Early Warning Systems in Central America" ​​which is implemented by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), with financing from the European Union.

Around 30 people participated in the training, including the following special guests and instructors: Pilar Álvarez, Director of the UNESCO Cluster Office for Central America and Mexico; Ricardo Alvarado, Mayor of the municipality of Omoa; Marcos Giraldo, Geologist Consultant and coordinator of the DIPECHO project; Alex Nuñez, Consultant for Honduras; and Juan José Reyes, head of the Early Warning System (EWS) Unit of Hondura’s Permanent Contingency Commission (COPECO).

Simulation

A tsunami drill was held on the beaches of Omoa on 3 August to implement what was learned in the workshop. Omoa residents and authorities fully engaged in the simulation, hoping to generate even more popular participation than in the previous simulation in Cedeño, the first municipality in Honduras to receive the UNESCO Tsunami Ready recognition on 16 February.

"We do drills every year, but it is the first time that a tsunami drill is going to take place here on the north coast, so we are preparing in the best way we can. During the workshop we made visits to the Playa and Las Salinas neighborhoods, which would be the most affected places should the simulated scenario really happen. We estimate that more than 7 thousands people would have to be evacuated, "said the Deputy Mayor of Omoa.

Preparations for the drill included identifying all evacuation routes and bringing onboard the Local Emergency Committees, local council presidents and representatives of educational centers.

Through the mapping and identification of affected areas, authorities determined that the safest places to evacuate people to in the event of a tsunami are Las Acacias, Las Lomas and the water park, because they are located above 30 meters from the sea level.

Data provided by the CODEM of Omoa reveals that annually more than 115 thousand people come to these beaches to vacation during during Easter and holy week alone.

Previous Tsunamis

Authorities in the Omoa Mayor’s Office said there are records indicating that the highest-intensity tsunami to ever hit the Honduran coast was recorded on August 4, 1856, in the Gulf of Honduras near Belize. The tsunami waves bathed the entire North coast, including Tela, La Ceiba, Trujillo and reaching Gracias a Dios.

The Data

Tsunami is a Japanese word that comes from "tsu" (bay or port) and "nami" (wave). This phenomenon is a wave that spreads in the sea and is caused by an underwater earthquake, a landslide, a volcanic eruption or the fall of a meteorite. The vast majority of earthquakes occur in faults. These are fractures in the earth's crust that accumulate tension, which is released in the earthquake.

Edited version based on press release issued by the COPECO Directorate of Social Communication.

For further information, please contact:
Bernardo Aliaga (b.aliaga(at)unesco.org)




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