A tsunami could soon hit major cities on or near the Mediterranean Sea including Marseille, Alexandria and Istanbul, with a nearly 100 percent chance of a wave reaching more than a meter high in the next 30 years, UNESCO said.
The risk of a tsunami in Mediterranean coastal communities is predicted to soar as sea levels rise.
While communities in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, where most tsunamis occur, were often aware of the dangers, it was underestimated in other coastal regions, including the Mediterranean, UNESCO said.
The UN organization said that five at-risk communities in the Mediterranean would join 40 other “tsunami-ready” towns and cities in 21 countries by next year. As well as Marseille, Alexandria and Istanbul, they include Cannes and Chipiona, a town on Spain’s Atlantic coast near Cadiz.
The “tsunami-ready” program is part of UNESCO’S broader effort, launched ahead of the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon next week, to ensure that all at-risk communities know what to do in the event of a tsunami by 2030.
“The tsunamis of 2004 and 2011 were a wake-up call,” UNESCO lead tsunami expert Bernardo Aliaga said. “We have come a long way since 2004. We are safer today, but there are gaps in preparedness and we need to improve; we need to make sure warnings are understood by visitors and communities.”
The Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004, the deadliest in history, killed an estimated 230,000 people in 14 countries, while the magnitude 9.1 earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which reached nearly 40m in height, killed 18,000 people in Japan.
Since the 2004 tsunami, UNESCO’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, hosted by the US, has responded to 125 tsunami events, averaging seven a year.
“The upstream part is in good shape” Aliaga said. “Work has been done to establish 12 tsunami-warning centers covering most of the ocean, including the Mediterranean.”
The warning centers include five in the Mediterranean and northeast Atlantic, including Greece, Turkey, Italy, France and Portugal.
“The risk of tsunami is underestimated in most areas, including the Mediterranean,” Aliaga said. “Events are not very frequent and the risk does not translate from one generation to another.”
“We need to get the message out,” he added. “In the Mediterranean, there is no question about it: It is not if, it’s when.”
One of the deadliest earthquakes in history hit Portugal on All Saints’ Day in 1755, generating a tsunami 6m high in Lisbon and Cadiz. Up to 50,000 people died in the earthquake, but many unsuspecting others perished in the ensuing fires and tsunami.
Tsunamis just 1.5m to 2m high can lift vehicles off the ground, while smaller waves can result in walls of water traveling at 65kph.
“The warning is not the full story,” Aliaga said. “The second part is community preparedness — how people behave and react. That has a way to go.”
He cited the case of Tilly Smith, a 10-year-old British girl who led 100 people, including her family, to safety in the 2004 tsunami. She had been told by her geography teacher at school to evacuate immediately on seeing receding water.
Sea-level rises, which increase the impact of tsunamis on coastal communities, are “one more reason to increase the pace of our work,” he said.
“The link is that sea-level rise increases the impact of tsunamis,” he added.
Authorities in Alexandria, Istanbul, Marseille, Cannes and Chipiona are working on “tsunami-ready” preparedness, including evacuation signs and procedures, as well as plans for warning tourists, he said.
“We want 100 percent of communities, where there is a proven hazard, to be ready to respond by 2030,” he said. “They will have evacuation maps, they will have carried out exercises and they will already have in place 24-hour alerts.”
Alerts were triggered about 10 minutes after an earthquake hit, he said, and could take the form of anything from bullhorns to WhatsApp messages.
“If it’s a local tsunami, you have 20 minutes maximum before the first wave hits. The second wave is larger and comes 40 minutes after the first one. You still have the possibility of escape,” he said.
Women on Thursday officially joined a so-called “naked festival” at a shrine in central Japan for the first time in the event’s 1,250-year history, donning purple robes and chanting excitedly as they bore a large bamboo trunk as an offering. Seven groups of women took part in the ritual which is said to drive away evil spirits and where participants pray for happiness. Despite its name, those taking part are not naked. Many women wore “Happi Coats” (robes that reach to the hips) and shorts that are typically worn at Japanese festivals, although men just wore loincloths similar to those worn by
DECLINE: About 27 million Argentines are poor, of which 15 percent are mired in ‘destitution,’ meaning they cannot adequately cover their food needs, a study showed Poverty levels last month skyrocketed to 57.4 percent of Argentina’s population of 46 million, the highest rate in 20 years, a study by the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) showed. The findings quickly unleashed accusations between Argentina’s former vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the government of President Javier Milei, who came to power announcing a series of shock measures aimed at tackling the country’s severe crisis. About 27 million people in Argentina are poor and 15 percent of those are mired in “destitution,” meaning they cannot adequately cover their food needs, according to the study released over the weekend. The UCA’s
Chinese police are working in the remote atoll nation of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean, with uniformed officers involved in community policing and a crime database program, Kiribati officials told Reuters. Kiribati has not publicly announced the policing deal with China, which comes as Beijing renews a push to expand security ties in the Pacific Islands in an intensifying rivalry with the US. Kiribati, a nation of 115,000, is considered strategic despite being small, as it is relatively close to Hawaii and controls one of the biggest exclusive economic zones in the world, covering more than 3.5 million square kilometers of the
A joint air patrol by the Philippines with the US was aimed at protecting territory and national interests in the South China Sea, a Philippine military official said yesterday, after Beijing accused Manila of stirring up trouble. Philippine fighter jets and a US bomber plane flew together over the South China Sea on Monday, more than a week after their navies held joint maritime exercises in the face of simmering tensions over territorial claims in the area. INTEROPERABILITY “This is to enhance both armed forces’ interoperability and enhance the capabilities of our air force [in] performing its mandate of protecting our territory, sovereign