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A boat-filled harbour photographed from the air, west of St George

Complacency kills: Caribbean gears up for tsunamis

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-46356998

BBC News

By Philippa Fogarty
Kingston, Jamaica

8 December 2018

A boat-filled harbour photographed from the air, west of St George's, Grenada, in February 2018
Image caption – Island nations like Grenada hope to be tsunami-ready by 2020

The last time a major tsunami hit the Caribbean region was in 1946, after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola.

At Playa Rincón, the sea rushed 700m (2,300ft) inland, according to a man who clung to the top of an almond tree to survive. Waves were 5m high in places and 1,600 people died across the north-east coast. Small tsunami waves were also recorded in Puerto Rico, Bermuda and even New Jersey.

Since then, a handful of tsunamis have occurred – in Panama and Costa Rica in 1991 after an earthquake, and in Montserrat in 1997 after a landslide of volcanic debris. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, sub-sea landslides generated waves that killed three people.

Over the same period, populations have more than doubled and tourist numbers on Caribbean beaches have soared, passing 30 million in 2017. In most places, infrastructure is concentrated in coastal areas.

Experts warn that the region runs the risk of complacency over the tsunami threat.

“The potential for tsunamis is significant and has to be taken seriously,” says Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, who oversees the Puerto Rico-based Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program under the US National Weather Service.

“Within the Caribbean and bordering the Caribbean, there are major fault structures and also volcanoes that could generate a tsunami at any time.”

Multiple risks

Key areas are along the north-eastern and eastern boundaries of the Caribbean where the North American and South American plates interact with the Caribbean plate.

Tsunamis in the Caribbean

Presentational grey line

These boundaries include areas of subduction (where one plate is forced under another, as in the Indian Ocean in 2004) and strike-slip motion (where plates are side by side, like the San Andreas fault).

One area to watch is the subduction zone east of the Lesser Antilles, says Dr Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS catastrophe risk modelling consultancy and the author of a 2015 report on mega-tsunamis. “We strongly suspect this area is potentially prone to these really large earthquakes, which would be associated with a major regional tsunami.”

Haitian presidential guards lower the Haitian flag on April 19, 2011 in front of the destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince
Image captionHaiti has struggled to recover from the damage caused by a devastating earthquake in 2010

Another series of faults lie north of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and includes the 8,400m-deep Puerto Rico Trench. While this area is not a straightforward subduction zone and there has not been a really significant earthquake along this boundary, there is evidence of massive submarine landslides into the trench and historical reports of local tsunamis, says Dr Muir-Wood.

Big earthquakes have also occurred off the Caribbean coast of Central America and Venezuela.

“The Caribbean is clearly a place where both [regional and local] types of tsunamis can be anticipated, and the key is that simply because an event hasn’t happened in the last 300 years of history doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” says Dr Muir-Wood.

Warning time

Before 2004, Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade says tsunami warning systems in the Caribbean were “basically non-existent”. But the Indian Ocean disaster sparked action and a regional body on tsunami risk was established under Unesco in 2005.

Significant work has been done to increase the data flow to the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC), which provides alerts to the region.

“Every single country has opened up its seismic data and that has been absolutely critical,” says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade.

Today there are 80 sea-level stations and 125 seismic stations sending information, up from five and 10 respectively in 2004. “That has permitted us to reduce our lead time – the time it takes to issue the initial [tsunami warning] product – from 10-15 minutes to under 5 minutes.”

Once PTWC has issued an advisory, responsibility for local alerts devolves to national governments. At this level, Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade says, capabilities “vary greatly throughout the region”.

A car drives on a damaged road in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Humacao, Puerto Rico, on October 2, 2017
Image captionHurricane Maria resulted in thousands of deaths on Puerto Rico after it hit in 2017

Some places, like Puerto Rico, have well-established protocols. Other places are less practised.

In January, when PTWC issued its first international tsunami threat message to the region after a 7.6 earthquake off Honduras, governments in the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, for example, faced questions over their response.

Some governments “had a little bit more difficulty deciding what product they should issue, if they should issue a product, if there really was a real threat”, says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade. “Strengths and weaknesses were identified.”

Funding vital

One early aim of the regional body was to establish a centre like PTWC in the Caribbean, but that has been sidelined in favour of improving education. Local tsunamis can potentially reach shore before an alert, and lives can be saved if residents know to seek high ground.

Central to this educational push is the annual tsunami exercise, Caribe Wave, and the Tsunami Ready programme, now adopted by Unesco, which sets out guidelines for communities to meet. So far Puerto Rico, Anguilla, St Kitts & Nevis and the Virgin Islands are certified as Tsunami Ready, while pilot projects have taken place in Haiti and Grenada.

Hurricane Emily is shown in this computer generated NOAA satellite illustration made available July 14, 2005 over the south-eastern Caribbean Sea
Image captionHurricane Emily hit Grenada in 2005

In Grenada the area chosen was St Patrick’s Parish, 8km (5 miles) south of rumbling submarine volcano Kick ‘Em Jenny. Educational billboards, evacuation maps and signs have been posted and an awareness programme carried out.

“We had to get down on the ground and interact with all of the community groups, we worked with the churches, the schools, the fisherfolk, the farmers,” says Senator Winston Garraway, minister of state with oversight of disaster management and information. “From the senior people to the children, they have the information now and they know exactly what has to be done.”

The government wants the whole island to be Tsunami Ready by 2020, starting with a southern parish potentially vulnerable to a tsunami generated off Venezuela. Mr Garraway also wants to establish a nationwide siren system to complement alerts disseminated via radio and TV.

Aerial views of the slopes of the Soufriere Hills showing the destruction and complete loss of the capital of Monserrat, Plymouth and St Patrick's village
Image captionA tsunami hit Monserrat in 1997 after there was a landslide of volcanic debris

But resourcing is a major problem for small island nations like Grenada, which must also address twin challenges of hurricanes and the impact of climate change. “Most of what we have to do, we do not have the ready resources,” says Mr Garraway. “Grant funding is extremely important for us at this time.”

Regionally, work remains to be done. Scientists still do not have the data needed to accurately size very large earthquakes and their type of movement quickly. Tsunami protocols for cruise ships are needed. Better understanding of bathymetry (water depth and shore height) would enable better scenario modelling, but some nations do not have that information.

“Every single country and territory in the region has room for improvement,” says Ms von Hillebrandt-Andrade.

“Tsunamis don’t occur that frequently, so it’s very easy to become desensitised. But the reality is that a tsunami could kill many more people than any hurricane could.”

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Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada rattled by earthquake

Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada rattled by earthquake

 
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Nov 12, CMC – Trinidad and Tobago continued to be rattled by earthquakes in recent days with the latest occurring on Sunday night when a tremor with a magnitude of 3.9 was also felt in neighbouring Grenada, the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the west indies (UWI) has reported.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage caused by the quake, which occurred at 8.47 pm (local time), but the SRC said that its location was Latitude: 11.18 north, Longitude: 61.90 west and at a depth of 61 kilometers (km).

The SRC said that the tremor was felt 72 km north west of Port of Spain, 91 km NW of Arima in Trinidad and Tobago and 98 km south of St. George’s, the Grenadian capital.

Earlier this month, the SRC warned that Trinidad and Tobago would experience moderate to strong earthquakes following the 6.9 quake that hit the oil rich twin island republic on August 21 sending people rushing into the streets in panic and causing damage to buildings.

“The earthquakes currently being recorded, in the Gulf of Paria, with some being felt, is in keeping with the pattern expected after such events. The other areas around Trinidad will continue to produce their normal annual magnitude output; on average, we expect just over 50 events of magnitude greater than 3.5 every year.

“In that context, given the two areas in the Gulf of Paria that are currently adjusting following significant magnitude earthquakes and the annual, expected events in the other, surrounding zones, the earthquake activity being seen is normal,” the SRC added.

The SRC warned Caribbean countries to ensure that all necessary measures are in place to respond appropriately to any large magnitude earthquake which may potentially cause significant damage and loss of life.

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No access to areas south of Belham Valley

Important Notice especially for visitors, tourists and sightseers

This will be a setback for tourists on the Windstar Vessel due to arrive on Tuesday, Crafters, and especially taxi drivers who according to DiscoverMNI were urged to be ready!

 Further to potential flood warnings – comes this news later in the day

The Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA) in consultation with the Commissioner of the Royal Montserrat Police Service (RMPS) has taken a decision to cease access to areas south of Belham Valley.

 The decision was taken due to the road being compromised and also to allow the authorities to carry out remedial work on the road in an effort to ensure the safety of all users.

 The road at Belham Valley will, therefore, be closed from 5 o’clock this afternoon and a further update will be given in due course.

 Persons, south of Belham are asked to make their way to the north immediately.

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DMCA urges motorists to drive with due care and attention in flood prone areas

The Antigua Meteorological Services has issued a flash flood advisory for Montserrat.

DMCA – November 12, 2018 (mid-day) The warning is in effect for minor flooding in low lying and flood prone areas and is valid until 5 pm today.

Therefore, the  Disaster Management Coordination Agency (DMCA) is advising motorists to drive with due care and attention and be mindful of areas prone to flooding. The areas are  Robert W Griffith Drive from Little Bay to Carrs Bay – adjacent to Piper’s Pond and Pump Ghaut in St John’s.

The DMCA is also cautioning motorists especially when driving to remain alert and look out for areas prone to landslides and rockfalls namely from Forgathy to Cudjoe Head, Pump Ghaut to Look Out and the Barzey’s area.

Residents in Isles Bay Hill and other persons crossing the Belham Valley River are asked to take extra precautions during heavy rainfall associated due, to the possibility of lahars occurring with little or no warning in the area.

A flood advisory means that streams, creeks and drains may be elevated or even overflowing into streets, low lying and flood prone areas; however, property damage will be minimal.

Inconveniences can be expected but the flooding is not expected to be immediately life-threatening. however, just one foot of flowing water is enough to sweep vehicles off the road. when encountering flooded roads be extremely cautious, and if in doubt, make the smart choice, turn around don’t drown. move to higher ground.

A persistent trough over the northeast Caribbean is influencing the weather over the leeward and British Virgin Islands, causing periodic heavy showers. already, based on radar estimates, up to an inch of rainfall has fallen in the vicinity of the island. hence, minor flooding of low lying and flood prone areas is expected.

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Region eyes “vigorous” tropical wave as 2018 Hurricane season near the end

Region eyes “vigorous” tropical wave as 2018 Hurricane season near the end

Little change in the status of the weather with suggestions it can get worse

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 12, CMC – Caribbean countries were keeping a close eye on a “vigorous” tropical wave east of the Leeward Islands, Monday,  as the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season ends later this month.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said that the wave, located about 200 miles east of the Leeward Islands – Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla –is producing a large area of disturbed weather over most of the western tropical Atlantic Ocean.

It said shower and thunderstorm activity have increased Monday and that the forecast is for the disturbed weather pattern to pass westerward to west-northwestward passing near the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and the southeastern Bahamas during the next few days.

“Interests in these areas should closely monitor the progress of this system,’ the NHC said, noting that there’s a 90 per cent chance of the system developing over the next five days.

If it further intensifies into a named storm, it would be called Patty.

While Caribbean countries have been spared for most of the 2018 hurricane season, heavy rains in several countries have led to floods, landslides and millions of dollars in damage.

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Yet another earthquake rattles Trinidad and Tobago

Yet another earthquake rattles Trinidad and Tobago

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Nov 1, CMC – Trinidad and Tobago started the month of November in the same manner as it ended the previous month with an earthquake rattling the twin island republic.

The Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said that an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.0 rattled parts of the country on Thursday at 8.40 am (local time).

It is the ninth tremor felt here in as many days and the SRC said that it was located Latitude: 9.85N

Longitude: 60.48W and at a depth of 30 kilometres (km).

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage but the quake was felt 117 km south east of San Fernando, south of here, 124 km south east of the eastern town of Arima and 145 km south east of the capital, Port of Spain.

Seismologist and Acting SRC Director Dr. Joan Latchman, has been warning Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean to be prepared for a major earthquake and that the various tremors in recent days are not nothing new.

On Sunday, Trinidad and Tobago recorded an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.1 but in August, many residents ran into the streets after a quake with a magnitude of 6.8 rocked the country followed by several aftershocks causing damage and but no loss of lives.

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Hawaiian Island Vanishes Overnight

It is slowly being accepted, the term ‘Climate Change’ with the further acceptance of the scientific explanation that earth continues to evolve. Makes for interesting education, discussions and debates, especially among students, scientists and yes, politicians. What is real is that ‘preparations’ must take place to deal with the effects on mankind.

LiveScience

A hurricane has wiped a Hawaiian island completely off the map.

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East Island, a tiny speck of land in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in northwest Hawaii, was washed away by Hurricane Walaka on Oct. 3 and 4, Honolulu Civic Beat reported Tuesday (Oct. 23). The island had been a critical nesting site for threatened Hawaiian green sea turtlesand critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals, biologists told the news organization. 

“There’s no doubt that it was the most important single islet for sea turtle nesting,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) biologist Charles Littnan told Civic Beat.

East Island was a mere 11 acres (0.04 square kilometers) in area. Between 1944 and 1952, it hosted a small Coast Guard station, but the island has otherwise been a haven for wildlife, ranging from albatross to turtles and seals. Satellite imagery has confirmed the island’s demise, but a marine debris team will be headed to the area to survey the damage this week, the Civic Beat reported.

Researchers told Civic Beat that the island’s seals and turtles had left the island after their breeding season but before the hurricane struck. It’s unclear, so far, whether they’ll find a new haven on one of the nearby shoals.

“Species are resilient up to a point,” Littnan told Civic Beat. “But there could be a point in the future where that resilience isn’t enough anymore.”

The Hawaiian green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) is a genetically distinct species of green sea turtle found almost exclusively around Hawaii, according to NOAA. They are legally protected under Hawaiian law and the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and those protections have resulted in a 53 percent increase in population since the late 1970s. Their primary nesting grounds are the French Frigate Shoals, including the former East Island.

The Hawaiian monk seals (Neomonachus schauinslandi), which used East Island as breeding grounds, are in a more precarious position. These seals are found only in Hawaii, and despite their protections as a critically endangered species, their numbers are still declining, according to NOAA. Only about 1,400 Hawaiian monk seals are left in the wild, NOAA estimates. A couple hundred of those call the French Frigate Shoals home, Littnan told Civic Beat. And of those, about 30 percent were born on East Island.

The shoal was the victim of bad luck, given the storm’s direct hit. But researchers told Civic Beat that Walaka was strengthened by warmer-than-average ocean waters, a trend scientists predict will only worsen as the globe warms.

Originally published on Live Science.

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earthquake-and-flooding

Amid Flood Disaster in Trinidad & Tobago, Earthquakes Hit

An aerial view of the flooding in sections of Trinidad (left) and the location
of one of two quakes that struck off the twin-island republic over the weekend.


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday October 22, 2018
– Two earthquakes struck off Trinidad and Tobago within 24 hours over the weekend, as the twin-island republic was dealing with massive flooding that caused destruction in some sections of the country and led Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to declare a national disaster.

There were no reports of any injuries as a result of the quakes, however.

According to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Seismic Research Centre, the first, smaller one occurred on Saturday, around 4:41 p.m. That magnitude 4.2 tremor struck 92 km south of Barbados’ capital, Bridgetown; 166 km northeast of Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago; and 191 km southeast of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Then on Sunday afternoon, at approximately 12:35 p.m., a 5.1 magnitude quake was recorded 78 km northeast of Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago; 161 km northeast of Arima, Trinidad and Tobago; and 181 km northeast of the capital, Port of Spain.

 

In both instances, there were reports of residents of Trinidad and Tobago feeling the tremor. But the focus there was on the massive flooding that resulted from days of heavy rainfall that started on Friday.

Works Minister Rohan Sinanan said the country had received the equivalent of one month’s rainfall in a three-day period.

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Several homes were flooded out, and residents were trapped on roofs and on top partially-submerged vehicles as they sought to escape the rising flood waters.

Some of the severe flooring stemmed from the overflowing of the Caroni River.

Both disaster officials and residents used boats and dinghies to get the marooned residents to safety and deliver food and other supplies to areas inundated by flood waters.

“This is a national disaster, the flooding is quite widespread and quite severe and it is going to cost a lot of money to bring relief to people who have been affected,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said on Saturday after touring some of the affected areas.

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“Notwithstanding whatever shortages we are experiencing we will have to find the resources to help,” he added.

He said he would seek Cabinet’s approval to get TT$25 million (US$3.7 million) to assist those affected by the floods.

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PM to seek Cabinet approval for flood relief funds

PM to seek Cabinet approval for flood relief funds

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Oct. 21, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley says he will approach Cabinet for funds to help with flood relief.

Rowley was speaking during a joint media conference on Saturday

“I would speak ahead of the Cabinet here and indicate that I would ask Cabinet to approve and authorize TT$25 million initially to assist persons who may require assistance from the treasury. We will ensure that this money is well spent and is spent as quickly as possible on those persons who have been affected,” he said.

Heavy rainfall over the last few days have resulted in widespread flooding across Trinidad and Tobago.

“This is a national disaster, the flooding is quite widespread and quite severe and it is going to cost a lot of money to bring relief to people who have been affected. Notwithstanding whatever shortages we are experiencing we will have to find the resources to help,”   Rowley said after touring some of the affected areas.

According to the Prime Minister, the Defence Force, especially the Coast Guard and Fire Service have been using small boats going streets to reach residents stranded in their homes.

Meanwhile, there are no re­ports of fa­tal­i­ties as a re­sult of the floods in sections of the twin island republic.

During a press conference on Saturday, National Security Minister   Stu­art Young  made the state­ment in reference to information being circulated on  so­cial me­dia.

He told reporters that  fake in­for­ma­tion be­ing cir­cu­lat­ed on­line has caused first re­spon­ders to di­vert at­ten­tion from af­fect­ed ar­eas.

Young has also mobilised    the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) to conduct an aerial reconnaissance .

The ODPM says the adverse weather situation will continue until Sunday and urged motorists to seek alternative routes where possible and be extremely vigilant of rising flood waters.

“The ODPM appeals to all persons to take the necessary precautions to preserve life and property,” it said, adding that people should also desist from driving or walking through flood waters.

“Vehicles do not provide adequate protection from flood waters. Vehicles can be swept away or may stall in flood waters,” the agency said.

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Serious flooding in Trinidad and Tobago

Serious flooding in Trinidad and Tobago

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Oct 20, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Saturday said teams were working to rescue people trapped by floods and landslides caused by heavy rains here over the past 48 hours and that the full extent of the damage caused will be revealed as the water subsides in the coming days.

“This is a national disaster, the flooding is quite widespread and quite severe and it is going to cost a lot of money to bring relief to people who have been affected. Notwithstanding whatever shortages we are experiencing we will have to find the resources to help,” Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said after touring some of the affected areas.

The Met Office said that an active ITCZ continues to produce periods of rain/showers and thunderstorm activity which can lead to flash or riverine flooding as well as landslides/landslips in areas so prone. Gusty winds can be experienced in the vicinity of heavy downpours.

Flooding in La Horquetta along the east-west
corridor in Trinidad

Many parts of the country were flooded and there have been widespread reports of landslides and road blocks caused as a result.

While there have so far been no reports of deaths or injuries, the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service has issued a “Red Riverine Flood Alert” warning persons to take all precautions to protect life and property.

“Riverine flooding occurs when water levels in a river over-tops its banks and spills into surrounding areas. This type of flooding is more widespread and usually lasts for several days,” the Met office said, adding that currently river levels have exceeded threshold levels and some have already over spilled their banks.

In a statement early Saturday, Prime Minister Rowley said that he had been receiving “timely updates” from the relevant government agencies responsible for spearheading the ongoing rescue operations as well as those coordinating relief efforts in the communities affected by severe flooding.

He said “throughout the night and into this morning the men and women of our protective services and the various Regional Corporations have been working diligently on the ground to respond to this disaster”.

Rowley said that members of the Coast Guard and Defence Force are working to rescue those who are trapped, adding “for those of you who are still stranded I know that patience may be running thin but help is on the way”.

Rowley said that National Security Minister Stuart Young is mobilising with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) to conduct an aerial reconnaissance “so that we can better ascertain the scope of the intervention required.

“The Government through its respective agencies is working to ensure that much-needed resources reach those who require assistance. In the coming days the full extent of the damage will be revealed as the water subsides. Today there are families seeking shelter at community centers and schools,” Rowley said, urging citizens to ‘continue to remain vigilant and heed the warnings and alerts from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management and the Meteorological Office”.

The OPDM said that the adverse weather situation will continue until Sunday and urged motorists to seek alternative routes where possible and be extremely vigilant of rising flood waters.

“The ODPM appeals to all persons to take the necessary precautions to preserve life and property,” it said, adding that people should also desist from driving or walking through flood waters.

“Vehicles do not provide adequate protection from flood waters. Vehicles can be swept away or may stall in flood waters,” it said.

CMC/rl/ir/2018

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