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Experts: Tsunamis a real threat


Hallam Hope

Experts: Tsunamis a real threat
A section of those who came out to learn about tsunami preparedness at Wednesday night’s town hall meeting. (Picture by Lennox Devonish)

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Lives could be lost in a matter of minutes from a tsunami.

This was the message teams of local and international experts shared with residents and members of the Christ Church West District Emergency Organisation (DEO) at a town hall meeting Wednesday night at the St Matthias Anglican Church.

“It could take ten minutes,” said tsunami expert Christa Von Hillebrandt-Andrade, for the ocean to recede substantially and a tsunami to appear. Von Hillebrandt-Andrade is deputy director, Caribbean Office, with the International Tsunami Information Centre.

Given early warning, it could take between ten and 20 minutes for residents to evacuate to higher ground. “Run for your life,” was the message from the tsunami specialists.

The Department of Emergency Management (DEM), headed by Kerry Hinds, and the Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit, led by Dr Leo Brewster, are co-ordinating the preparedness in the event of a tsunami.

Christ Church West residents, presenters associated with the UNESCO/IOC Caribbean Tsunami Information Centre (CTIC) and Government specialists shared suggestions on ways to aid in speedy evacuation.

This was the third in a series of tsunami public meetings, which looked at signage, potential hazards, routes to be taken for evacuation, the extent of the constituency likely to face an impact from a tsunami, and the possibility of the Wanderers cricket ground in Dayrells Road being designated an evacuation assembly area.

“This is public education more than anything else,” Member of Parliament and representative for the constituency, Dr William Duguid, said.

A week-long workshop on tsunami preparedness was held this week funded by USAID (United States Agency for International Development).

“We now have a comprehensive tsunami map for Barbados,” Brewster said.

A draft map to cover evacuation planning was discussed by residents and project administrators.

Duguid said it was important for Barbadians living outside of the areas where a tsunami was likely to have an impact, to be aware of the evacuation plans.

Presenters, who included Alison Brome, project officer of UNESCO/IOC CTIC, noted the need for activities three times a year and a tsunami exercise every two years.

“This has been so helpful,” said Von Hillebrandt-Andrade. “This is exactly what we need.” (HH)