Global perspective Human stories

Pacific Ocean countries take part in UN meeting on tsunami preparations

Pacific Ocean countries take part in UN meeting on tsunami preparations

Experts from countries bordering the Pacific Ocean are gathering in Ecuador this week for a United Nations-organized meeting to assess the state of preparations in the region, home to most of the world’s tsunamis, to predict and deal with any future killer waves.

The four-day meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, starting today in Guayaquil, will hear reports from participating nations about what they are doing to be ready for a potential tsunami.

The group’s members will also examine the progress – through improved seismic data, sea-level measurements and deep-ocean tsunami detection – towards strengthening the regional response to any tsunami and to reducing any public risks.

The Pacific Ocean, which covers a third of Earth’s surface, is particularly vulnerable to tsunamis because it is surrounded by a series of mountain chains, deep-ocean trenches and arcs of islands that are known for the frequency and strength of earthquakes.

In 1979, the so-called Tumaco earthquake in South America triggered a tsunami that killed 200 people on the coast of Colombia.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning System (PWTS), which has been in place since 1965, now serves 26 countries with rapid information on approaching tsunamis, public awareness campaigns and advice on how to mitigate the impact of these natural disasters.

This week’s meeting has been arranged by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).