Barbados and its Caribbean counterparts are more prepared to respond to the potential threat of a tsunami and other coastal hazards.

This was one of the key points stressed during a Tsunami Public Awareness and Educational (PAE) Stakeholders Consultation meeting in the Dominican Republic earlier this week.

Chair of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE EWS), Dr. Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, said Barbados, the Caribbean, and the adjacent region, continued to face the threat of unpreparedness in dealing with such coastal hazards.

However, she commended ongoing efforts being undertaken to prepare such countries for the likely effects of those coastal hazards.

Dr. Andrade noted that in 2004, there were only five seismic stations, but there were now 50, with almost each country in the region contributing data. In addition, she added that over 90 per cent of Caribbean countries named a tsunami warning focal point.

The Chair added that there were presently 40 member states participating in CARIBE EWS which was established in 2005, and has held sessions in Barbados, Venezuela, Panama, Martinique, Nicaragua, Curacao and the Dominican Republic.

In addition, Barbados is expected to be the location of the Caribbean Tsunami Information Centre, which will soon be established.

But, she pointed out, that there was still a general lack of public awareness and education surrounding the threat. "Local and regional educational programmes still need to be strengthened," she said, noting that the Caribbean was preparing more to mitigate against the risk.

Dr. Andrade indicated that it was still to be decided what would be the best way to get information from the focal point to the people so that they would know what to do in the event of a coastal hazard.

She warned that a major challenge for most Caribbean countries was the tourism sector and port authorities. "There is a lot at stake in those areas," she explained.

However, she also raised the issue of complacency and a lack of cohesive information in terms of warning signs.

Dr. Andrade pointed out that people usually wanted to know the location of safe zones, and this often presented a challenge since no models were in place.

But, despite these challenges, she stressed that the bottom line of the efforts being undertaken was to protect lives and secure economic prosperity in the event of a tsunami.


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