Tsunami action plan

WARNING sirens echoed throughout the Capital City yesterday morning.

They certainly were loud and definitely attracted attention.

The National Disaster Management Office director Anare Leweniqila said they had tested the tsunami sirens they had allocated in some parts of Suva and Lami.

An advisory, he said, had been put out, warning people of the test.

It was to allay fears inched out by the sirens.

The siren testing was also a way for people to get accustomed to the sound “which would help enormously in the event of a tsunami threat that warrants evacuation” the NDMO said in a statement.

It was one of those days in Suva yesterday.

The sun inched its way out early, only to be followed by a slight drizzle that eventually disappeared into a fine day.

Now that we know the sirens do work, there will surely be questions raised.

How are we placed when it comes to actually taking action in the wake of the sirens?

Are we even prepared for the “big one”?

We are a country prone to cyclones, flooding and we have had a few scares when tsunami alerts were sounded, even though the only thing that eventuated was scared people rushing for the nearest high ground as some “brave” souls dashed in the opposite direction, to wait for the big wave.

We did have a recorded event that happened in 1953.

It left fish high and dry on Albert Park and eight people dead.

The waves came in the wake of an earthquake that shook and damaged buildings in Suva that year.

The scenarios have, however, changed to a large extent.

A similar tsunami now would definitely have a more devastating impact on the Capital City.

It would have the potential to cause more damage because of a number of factors.

The city has grown significantly in terms of buildings and the number of people who work and travel through Suva daily.

Are we even prepared for a tsunami?

There will no doubt be questions hanging over our preparedness for an operational environment, considering various possible scenarios and the scale of emergency.

The next key question is whether there is a plan to test our response time?

There will be questions about decision-making under such an emergency and communication processes.

How does this operate at the national level?

A major tsunami will inch out a massive response and recovery effort.

The reality is that a tsunami threat can never be ruled out for Fiji.

During a tsunami warning last year in January, traffic was held up in many parts of the Capital City as people tried to escape to higher ground at the same time.

Ironically though, in other parts of the city, life continued as normal, with many people unaware of a tsunami threat.

There can be no room for confusion or second-guessing in such events.

While it is indeed encouraging to note that we have working sirens, perhaps it is time for the powers that be to review our processes and test it.

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