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The 11 March 2011 Earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku, Japan

With the devastating M9.0 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku once again the world was reminded of the deadly force of the ocean. So far the figures for confirmed casualties and missing people are 15,429 deaths and 7,781 missing. The scenes transmitted around the world have shocked us all, and the IOC sends it condolences to the people of Japan and pledges to continue its efforts to coordinate the implementation and improvement of tsunami warning systems globally.

traveltimes_japanThe earthquake struck at 0546Z on 11 March with its epicenter some 130km east of the coast of Miyagi prefecture. The magnitude of the earthquake is estimated by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) as M9.0, making it the 4th largest recorded earthquake since 1900. There were hundreds of aftershocks since the main earthquake, many greater than magnitude 6. The first tsunami wave arrived at the coastline nearest to the epicenter within about 15 minutes of the earthquake and in the hours that followed more waves arrived, in one place 30m but often above 10m. Whole communities were washed away and much infrastructure was destroyed.


The tsunami propagated east into the Pacific Ocean and the first regional tsunami bulletins were issued by the North West Pacific Tsunami Advisory Centre (NWPTAC) operated by JMA and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) at 0555Z. Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) buoys close to Japan were triggered and a wave of 1.08m amplitude (mean level to peak) was recorded at DART21418 at 0619Z, confirming that a large tsunami had been generated and was propagating eastward.


UNESCO holds training workshop on the development of standard operating procedures for tsunami warning in Haiti


sophaiti3A training workshop on the compilation of standard operating procedures for tsunami warning and emergency operations was held on 10 and 11 March 2011 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The workshop was attended by more than 80 participants, including representatives of institutions that constitute the tsunami warning chain, namely the Maritime and Navigation Service of Haiti (SEMANAH), the Bureau of Mines and Energy (BME), the Directorate of Civil Protection (DPC) and the National Meteorological Centre (CNM).
Mr Bechir Lamine, UNESCO’s representative in Port-au-Prince, underlined UNESCO’s role as an intersectoral platform between education, culture, science and communication for tsunami hazard mitigation. The Minister of the Interior, Mr Paul Antoine Bien-Aimé, stressed the importance of including tsunamis in the list of disasters likely to strike Haiti, in addition to earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. 
“The largest cities in Haiti are on the coast. Besides, Haiti is situated between two subduction zones – one to the north and the other to the south – which could trigger tsunamis,” Mr Bechir Lamine explained. “As tsunamis rarely occur, they are often left out of hazard mitigation programmes. They can, however, seriously affect coastal areas, and prevention must be included in a comprehensive hazard mitigation programme.”


Training workshop on the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) 21 - 25 February 2011, San Juan, United States

emwin2A training workshop on the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN), took place 21-25 February, 2011 in Puerto Rico (USA) involving Caribbean and Central American National Meteorological -- Hydrological Services, emergency management agencies, and related entities. The call for this training was distributed to Tsunami Warning Focal Points and Tsunami National Contacts for the ICG/CARIBE EWS.  Participants come from Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Bahamas, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gran Cayman, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Republica Dominicana, Saint Lucia, and Puerto Rico.

NOAA NWS operates the EMWIN program to provide a stream of information via NOAA GOES satellites and over the Internet. The stream provides the emergency management community with various warning and meteorological products in a timely and reliable manner. One of the benefits of EMWIN is that it does not require a fee or ongoing cost to operate, and initial station equipment is inexpensive and easy to operate. For tsunami warning operations this is a highly recommended communication redundant method.

In association with the workshop, NOAA plans to deploy EMWIN stations throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Support for this activity has been provided though an inter-agency agreement between the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)

Link to news (in Spanish): http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=156172941103985


ComMIT training in Maputo, Mozambique 14-18 February, 2011

comitmaputo2As part of the UN initiative “Strengthening the tsunami warning capacity of Indian Ocean member States”, coordinated through UN/ISDR, a training course on the ComMIT/MOST tsunami numerical modelling software was held in Maputo from February 14 to 18, 2011. On invitation of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Diana Greenslade (BoM, Australia) and Chris Chamberlin (NOAA, USA) successfully conducted this course. The one-week workshop was attended by 18 trainees from 8 thematically related institutions in Mozambique (INAM, INGC, INAHINA, DNG, CVM, UEM, KULIMA and FOCO). Prof. Seddoh, representative a.i. of UNESCO Maputo, welcomed the participants during the opening ceremony and stressed the importance of the training course due to the given risk of coastal inundation caused by tsunamis and tropical cyclones along the 3000km Mozambican coastline.comitmaputo
Following the well established workshop outline the course comprised three basic elements: lectures, practice and lastly the presentation of participants’ work on case studies which they had to conduct during the workshop. Thus, the first day was blocked for providing the background information on the international governance structure and the basic features, from tsunami generation, wave propagation to coastal flooding. This also comprised a detailed presentation of underlying wave theory and equations as well as the related numerical transformation and modelling by the MOST model. The second and third day of the workshop addressed all features provided by the ComMIT interface and especially how to generate individual model runs for varying earthquake magnitudes at different sources in the Indian Ocean. The second part of the training was then earmarked for participants to work on their individual case studies on which a formal presentation were given during the last day of the training.

ComMIT/MOST training workshop 6-10 December 2010, Moroni, Union of the Comoros

comoros2A training workshop on how to use the ComMIT/MOST tsunami digital modelling software was held from 6 to 10 December 2010 in Moroni. It was most probably the first ComMIT training workshop in a French-speaking area. The instructors were Narcisse Zahibo and Bernard Dudon from the University of the Antilles in French Guiana, mandated by UNESCO. Fifteen people, all of whom were Comorians from different activity sectors (the Civil Aviation and Meteorological Authority, the Volcano Observatory, the Hydrological Service, civil society players, non-governmental organizations (UNDP), etc.), took part in the workshop. The opening ceremony was honoured by the presence of the Minister of Transport, Mr Hassane Assoumane, whose address underlined the importance given by Comorian authorities to the mitigation of natural threats facing their islands. It should also be highlighted that the beginning of the workshop coincided with the inauguration of the first radar tide gauge funded by UNESCO which was installed in the Moroni port. All workshop participants attended the inauguration ceremony.


The workshop comprised three facets: theory, practice and lastly the presentation of participants’ work on case studies which they had to perform during the workshop. All tsunami features, from generation to coastal flooding, including concepts of risk management (mitigation, assessment and warning) were outlined at the start of the workshop. Historical data on tsunamis and more specifically the impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on the coasts of the Union of the Comoros was examined. This was followed by a presentation of long ocean wave propagation equations and their digital modelling by the MOST method. The second day of the workshop addressed all the features of the ComMIT interface, how to use the locally installed server containing the different sources of the Makran and Indian Ocean region, and how to construct different nested grids. Each participant then worked on a case study on which a formal presentation was made, during which we took note of their quick grasp of the ComMIT/MOST modelling tool.

All participants expressed the need to strengthen and increase their command of this tool in order to use it in specific tsunami risk assessment projects for the Union of the Comoros.

Regional workshop on Standard Operating Procedures for tsunami warning and emergency response for East African and Western Indian Ocean countries

sops ds

A regional training workshop on tsunami warning and emergency response SOPs for East African and Western Indian Ocean countries was held at the Blue Pearl Hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 15-19 November.  The workshop was attended by 22 participants from 8 countries: Comoros, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania and Yemen.  The trainers were:  Tony Elliott and Masahiro Yamamoto from UNESCO IOC, Dr Laura Kong (ITIC) and Amir Mohyuddin (NDMA, Pakistan).

The participants comprised representatives from regional National Tsunami Warning Centres (NTWC) and National Disaster Management Organisations (NDMO), and the Tanzania Red Cross National Society. The training content focused on: earthquake and tsunami science for tsunami warning; tsunami hazards in the Indian Ocean; fundamental Tsunami Warning Centre SOPs for a timely warning; tsunami emergency response and preparedness; information flow SOPs – media and public information; the development of SOPS, including data analysis, processes, flowcharts and checklists, timelines; and tsunami warning decision support tools.

The key outcomes of the workshop were the provision of templates and guidelines to be used to create SOPs at the national level and a draft set of SOPs created at the workshop.  Further important outcomes were the fostering of closer coordination between the NTWCs and NDMOs of the region.

A tabletop exercise tested the group’s understanding of SOPs for a distant tsunami scenario.  The exercise demonstrated the groups’ understanding of the role of SOPs in tsunami warning and emergency response.  At the same time, gaps and weaknesses were identified, which the participants will address at the national level.

This workshop was organized in response to a common need identified in country capacity assessment missions conducted in Indian Ocean member states following the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Funding for the workshop was from IOC Regular Programme funds and the Indian Ocean Consortium administered by UNISDR.  The workshop has identified a demand for conducting a programme of country-specific workshops to develop critical capacity at the national level.  A need for a regular biennial regional workshop was also identified.

Hosted by:
UNESCO/IOC Project Office for IODE Oostende, Belgium
1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris Cedex 15, France | Tel: +33 1 45 68 39 84 | Fax: +33 1 45 68 58 12