Is Samoa ready for another tsunami?

​Samoa readiness for another tsunami hitting the country was questioned at a regional meeting of meteorology directors.

At a presentation on Samoa’s early warning systems, Samoa was asked if it was ready for a tsunami by chair of the Third Pacific Meteorological Council and head of the South West Pacific Tsunami working group, Ofa Fa’anunu.

Principal Scientific Officer Weather Luteru Tauvale said he was confident that with Samoa having experienced a tsunami in 2009, it now had a system in place that made Samoa ready to respond.

His comments were supported by Samoa Meteorology Division ACEO Mulipola Ausetalia Titimaea. “A lot of work has been done. We have held workshops and worked with the disaster management offices.

“We also have a 24-7 national disaster centre with additional staff working shifts,” said Mulipola. “We also have training between the meteorology and seismic centre. One area that we have been working on is SMS with Digicel and Bluesky networks.”

Fa’anunu, who is also Tonga’s Meteorology Director, said it appeared the Samoa Met Division was ready but the fourth component of an early warning system was the ability of people to respond.

“Building capacity of the met service is the easy part. The dissemination and getting people to respond it is the most difficult. Do they know where to go for information? Do they know where to evacuate to?”

Since the 2009 tsunami that claimed 148 lives, Samoa has installed 23 sirens on the southeast coast area that was affected by the tsunami. The sirens were funded by the Japan International Co-operation Agency.

Muipola said every year his division ran simulations and at end of every month the siren system was checked.

“We have the capability to respond. For any tsunamis, our awareness is so strong in us. For earthquakes greater than 8.1, we tell people they should not wait for a warning to be issued – run for your life for the high grounds.”

Tsunami warnings in the region used to be issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii. However, since October last year Pacific Island countries now issue their own warnings according to their own criteria.

Fa’anunu said the South West Pacific Tsunami Group was looking gaps that existed in the system.

At the meeting, he recommended exploring, in partnership with the World Meteorology Organization, how countries could work together regarding tsunami preparedness.

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