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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.

New Zealand Tsunami Exercise “Exercise Tangaroa”

By David Coetzee & Nora Gale

collagenzExercise Tangaroa, held on Wednesday 20 October 2010, was a national, multi-agency exercise focusing on the national response to a distant source tsunami event.  The exercise was led by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM), with participation from the 16 CDEM Groups, central government departments, emergency services, lifeline utilities, and other agencies across the country.  In all, over 100 agencies and companies took part, making it one of the largest civil defence emergency management exercises ever held in New Zealand.

The scenario for the exercise was based on a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the coast ofCentral Peru in South America and focused on the lead-up to a tsunami arrival, stopping when the first waves reached the New Zealand coast.

The exercise was played in real time, with the first notification of the earthquake (and the start of the exercise) at 4:59 am.  The exercise finished at 7.05pm the same day.  
Information about a simulated destructive tsunami crossing the Pacific was communicated through simulated tsunami, earthquake and sea-level information bulletins issued (notionally) by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Nation Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Data Buoy Centre (NOAA NDBC). These were sent to MCDEM as the national Tsunami Warning Focal Point (TWFP) and to other agencies that normally subscribe to PTWC bulletins.


Indonesian tsunami shows more work needed to prepare vulnerable populations

The tragic losses caused by the 25 October earthquake and tsunami off Sumatra show that efforts must be intensified to further improve the preparedness of coastal populations in the world’s most vulnerable regions, said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System functioned effectively during the magnitude 7.7 earthquake and tsunami. However, warning messages could not be issued quickly enough to protect populations within minutes of the epicenter, near the Indonesian Mentawai Islands.
“We must intensify our efforts to make sure communities on shorelines close to tsunami source zones know what to do when a strong earthquake is felt,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Immediate self-evacuation is the key to survival for near-field tsunamis. People must know to head for high ground as quickly as possible.” 
Wendy Watson-Wright, UNESCO Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), confirmed that the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System issued timely tsunami alert messages on this event. The national system for Indonesia, the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System (InaTEWS) issued the first warning to national authorities within five minutes of the sub-sea earthquake, which allowed many communities to take the necessary precautions. 
However, as the centre of the earthquake and tsunami was located just a few kilometers off the Indonesian islands of Mentawai, even the very swift warning from Indonesian authorities could not reach the fishing villages on Pagai or Sipora before the tsunami hit the shore. 
Since 2004, a vast amount of work has been done to establish an effective warning system for the Indian Ocean. We have state-of-the-art equipment in the water that allows us to know very quickly if a tsunami has been generated, and a range of alert mechanisms have been put into place in coastal areas make sure official warnings reach local populations. But we still have a great deal of awareness raising and public information work ahead to make sure we go the last mile and reach the most vulnerable communities,” said Watson-Wright. 
UNESCO-IOC established the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System following the 2004 earthquake and tsunami off the shores of Indonesia that took the lives of over 200,000 people. Warnings for the system are presently issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre based in Hawaii and the Japanese North-West Pacific Tsunami Advisory Centre based in Tokyo.

UNESCO-IOC Workshops on Preparedness and Awareness of Makran Tsunami Hazards

makranUNESCO IOC has received funding from the UNESCAP Multi-donor Voluntary Trust Fund to conduct a project called “Assessment and Awareness of Makran Tsunami Hazards. The project was designed to build capacity in Iran and Pakistan for palaeotsunami studies of the Makran region and collect eyewitness accounts from the tsunami that impacted the Makran coast in 1945.

The project started with Preparedness and Awareness workshops in Iran and Pakistan. In holding the workshops, the ICG/IOTWS Secretariat worked closely with the host agency in the respective countries. The workshop in Iran was hosted by the Iranian National Institute of Oceanography (INIO) in Tehran, 1-5 May 2010, while the workshop in Pakistan was hosted by the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) Karachi from 19-23 July 2010.

The aim of the 5-day workshops was to introduce the history of tsunamis in the Makran region, explore the potential for future events, and showcase some best practices in awareness and education which have been applied in other countries, such as Indonesia, Thailand, and others. The trainers for the workshop included international tsunami experts from India, Indonesia, Thailand, USA, and Yemen.

To follow on from the preparedness workshops, a field workshop along the Makran coast will be conducted in Iran, 9-20 October 2010. The field workshop will comprise of palaeotsunami survey and interview of eyewitness accounts of 1945 Makran tsunami. Results of the workshop will be incorporated into tsunami modeling studies, risk assessments and educational materials.

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