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Tonga joins Pacific Rim Countries in PACWAV17 Tsunami Exercise

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16th February, 2017 The Meteorology Department and the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO) under the Ministry of MEIDECC conducted a tsunami drill in collaboration with line ministries and stakeholders yesterday 15th February, 2017.

Tonga joined the rest of the Pacific Rim Countries yesterday in testing its tsunami warning and response procedures during the PACWAVE17 tsunami exercise.

The CEO for MEIDECC Mr. Paula Pouvalu Ma’u stated that “this was the seventh exercise conducted here in Tonga since 2006 and it is the first time that it is fully controlled by one of our own institutions”. The exercise was let by the Tonga Meteorological Service and supported by a number of Tonga’s tsunami first responder agencies including: NEMO, Geological Survey Unit (MLSNR), HMAF, Tonga Police, Tonga Fire Services, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Education, Tonga Red Cross, Digicel, FM87.5, Tonga Broadcasting Commission, Communications Department of MEIDECC, and Information department of MEIDECC). The Exercise was controlled by Tonga’s Director of Meteorology, Mr. Ofa Fa’anunu.

Ma’u thanked the line ministries and stakeholders for attending exercise and for their continuous support. “The turn up today indicate the improvement of education here in Tonga and the work we carry out about tsunami. Today’s exercise will test our coordination and teamwork to be familiar with the situation when it becomes a reality. We know our individual responsibilities to the public. Let us take it seriously as if it is a real thing happening”, he said.

Director of Meteorology and Exercise Controller, Mr. ‘Ofa Fa’anunu said the purpose of the exercise was to test tsunami warning and respond procedures, communications and readiness of first responder agencies to respond to tsunami events and to test the siren alerted systems that are in place. We have participated in every PACWAV Exercise since it was started in 2006 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO and we have also ran our own a couple of times.”

Fa’anunu said, “The Tsunami hazard risk for Tonga is real and is considered extreme. It has the potential to cause mass loss of human life and destruction to property. Niuatoputapu 2009 is a constant reminder of this. Tonga sits on a tectonic plate boundary where earthquakes frequently occur like Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Japan. These places are where most tsunami are generated from. Nuku’alofa is considered to be one of the most vulnerable capitals to tsunami in the world” he added. “Our biggest threat comes from a local tsunami triggered from the Tonga Trench”.

“Today we are conducting both a tabletop exercise (agency discussions) and a functional drill to  test the 8 siren systems that we have installed at Sia, Pili, Popua, Talafo’ou, Afaa, Kanokupolu, Kolovai and Mo’unga’one,” Fa’anunu said.

The scenario exercised yesterday was to test the response in an extreme event of a magnitude 9 earthquake on the Tonga trench just southeast of Tongatapu triggering a 4 meter tsunami wave that inundated the capital Nuku’alofa and parts of Eua and Ha’apai.

A debrief on the Exercise will be conducted in 2 weeks time.

ENDS

Issued by the: Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communication

 

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