10.07.2017 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Tsunami warning training for Fiji

Training to support Fiji Government to improve warning and response to tsunami threat and streamline tsunami messages for dissemination to the public begins in Suva today.

Historically, 71 per cent of the confirmed tsunamis in the world have occurred in the Pacific Ocean and its marginal seas. Further, by sub-regional or local tsunamis have been causing 99 per cent of the casualties. A local tsunami can strike within minutes with little time to warn the public. The Fiji tsunami in 1953 is a notable reminder as it hit coastal areas of Suva with massive impact.

Recent changes to the Pacific Tsunami Warning & Mitigation System, an initiative that has been ongoing since 1968, mean the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) issues messages indicating tsunami threat levels and the Pacific Island countries advise their public promptly to take appropriate response measures. In order to issue timely and appropriate warning, authorities in the countries need to have the capacity to assess tsunami threat, in particular, to low-lying islands and coasts.

In view of the above, UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) in coordination with the NOAA International Tsunami Information Centre (ITIC) Training Programme International (ITP-International) is organizing a technical training for the authorities in Fiji from 10-14 July 2017 at Fiji Meteorological Service, Laucala Bay, Suva, Fiji. The IOC-UNESCO and ITIC ITP-International are holding the programme in partnership with the Government of Fiji, the Pacific Community (SPC), the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the European Union and the ACP Group of States.

Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Mineral Resources Mr Malaki Finau said this training brings together the critical stakeholders to genuinely address the risk of tsunami now and into the future.  “I hope that during this training we will be able to address the risk of tsunami and believe me this is about improving how we disseminate information for protection of the public given that we are in the geological setting that we are in near the Pacific Ring of Fire and how prone we are to earthquakes,” he said.

Ms Osnat Lubrani, United Nations Resident Coordinator speaking on behalf of the UN system and the UNESCO, mentioned, “This training, which is an effort to strengthen end-to-end the tsunami warning procedures sits at the heart of the efforts of the IOC-UNESCO’s Tsunami programme”. Ms Lubrani further informed that “the UN system, through the IOC-UNESCO, which is UN competent organization for marine and ocean science snd services, including  the Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It also promotes hazard mitigation and international and regional intergovernmental coordination of tsunami warning”.

Dr. Audrey Aumua, Deputy Director-General of the Pacific Community (SPC), speaking about the training said “The recent changes in the way tsunami warnings are provided to the region means increased responsibility and scientific approaches are needed and I commend the Fiji Government for its commitment to this great work to increase the expediency of tsunami messages in times of need to genuinely protect the public.  I also recognise this training and work is not standalone and there are many other parts coming together to ensure a wide reaching tsunami warning system is operating across the country.”

                                                                                                                    Assistant Resident Coordinator of Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA),  Mr Shunichiro Ikeda Commended the Fiji Government and all of the partners involved in the work saying he hoped increased understanding of how best to protect the people of Fiji from tsunami would come from the training.

 “The tsunami training will cover wide aspects of tsunami operating procedures for Fiji and I hope the training will further upgrade knowledge and capacity for regional staff to respond to tsunami and threats”

Dr Laura Kong of the International Tsunami Information Centre, who is leading the training, added, “It’s essential that Fiji’s tsunami focal points, the Mineral Resources Department, Meteorological Services, and National Disaster Management Office, work closely together and with the Media when there is a tsunami danger.  At the same time, every citizen should know a tsunami’s natural warning signs and be prepared to evacuate immediately for a local tsunami.”


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