Tsunami preparedness needs to improve in Luganville

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department says a Luganville tsunami exercise last Friday revealed more preparation is needed to speed-up the evacuation of people during a real tsunami.

During the drill, Luganville Market vendors were evacuated from the market house to Pump Station Hill, a safer location in Luganville.

Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department Director, Allan Rarai, says the relocation of the market vendors to Pump Station Hill took around 10 to 15 minutes.

“In a real tsunami, this timing would be too slow,” he said.

“All organisations and households in Luganville need to develop their plans as to how they would respond to a real-life situation.”

Mr Rarai says tsunami waves can have a fastest travel time of around 800 kilometres per hour which is around 400 knots.

“A tsunami surge can be more powerful than the winds that would be generated in a Category Five cyclone,” he said.

“The speed of a tsunami surge is like the speed of a train.”

He says last week’s tsunami exercise tested how the community would respond to a 1.90 magnitude earthquake that generated tsunami waves from one end of the Solwei area in Luganville.

Mr Rarai says the exercise aimed to encourage local businesses, the Luganville Municipal Council, the Sanma Provincial Government Council and other local authorities to develop plans for dealing with a real tsunami.

“We wanted to test the tsunami systems we have in place to cope with a real tsunami,” he said.

“The drill helps local authorities and people to prepare by identifying safe locations to evacuate to in the event of a tsunami.

“This is especially important for those residing or working near rivers because the risk of a tsunami is high along rivers and tsunami waves travel very fast along a river.”

Vanuatu meteorology and disaster management authorities say safe locations for people in Luganville during a tsunami are: Pump Station Hill, Solomon Hill and the Sanma Province area.

The tsunami warning siren that went out on Friday in Luganville was switched on in Port Vila.

“I am happy to see many people in Luganville, not only the market vendors but the public at large, participate in the run. The turnout was very good,” Mr Rarai said.

The following partners collaborated with the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office and the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department on the Luganville drill exercise – the Japan International Cooperation Agency, UN Women, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, World Vision, Vanuatu Red Cross, Save the Children and Luganville businesses.

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