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Tsunami warning blunder causes Caribbean scare
An error by the US Pacific Tsunami Centre yesterday almost threw T&T into a tsunami scare. The centre issued a tsunami warning for T&T and other Caribbean islands after a powerful magnitude-7.9 earthquake which occurred off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the morning. A few minutes after the watch bulletin was issued, the centre cancelled it, saying the warning was meant for the Pacific and was sent in error to the Caribbean.
A release from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management yesterday advised that this country was not under any tsunami threat. “Earthquakes of this size have the potential to generate a widespread destructive tsunami that can affect coastlines across the Caribbean region,” the US Government said. It said it was unknown if a tsunami had been generated, but the warning was based on the size of the earthquake.
Nevertheless, the ODPM sent out tips for citizens to follow in the event of a tsunami threat. ODPM CEO Dr Stephen Ramroop, who was asked if T&T was prepared for a tsunami, answered the question with another question. “Was New Orleans prepared? Was Haiti prepared?” he asked, referring to the major 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti and the 2005 deluge that covered New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“The question is all relative,” Ramroop said. He said the Government was always prepared and some of the preparedness depended on the impact of the disaster and how people reacted at the community level. He said what people did not see in Diego Martin after heavy rains left a trail of destruction in the area recently was that 60 per cent of the residents got their lives back in order themselves and did not go to the social services.
The people of T&T are resilient, Ramroop said. The US Geological Survey said the 10.42 am quake yesterday struck off the Costa Rican shore. There were no immediate accounts of damage or injuries but it was felt as far away as Managua, the capital of neighbouring Nicaragua. A tsunami watch was immediately issued and included the coastlines of Mexico, most countries in Central America and many Caribbean islands.
A tsunami warning was in effect for Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin. The warning was later narrowed down to Panama, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
What is a tsunami?
A tsunami is the most powerful and destructive aftermath of an earthquake in coastal regions. It is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of water from the ocean. The most common causes of tsunamis are underwater earthquakes.
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