It could be catastrophic if Barbados and other Caribbean islands do not pay greater attention to their ability to respond to tsunamis and other coastal hazards.

This is the view of Head of the Barbados Delegation to the fourth Session of the Inter-governmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE EWS -IV), Judy Thomas.?? The meeting is currently taking place in Fort de France, Martinique.

"To date, Barbados has been fortunate, but given our topography, population and a concentration of tourism-related infrastructure along our vulnerable coastlines, there is a level of risk which must be anticipated and planned for. This includes not only tsunamis but other coastal hazards," Ms. Thomas said.

She added: "If we are to minimise possible impacts, there must be a comprehensive approach consisting of warning guidance, risk assessment, and preparedness and education." The emergency official explained that this was why the establishment of a Caribbean Tsunami Warning Centre and a Caribbean Tsunami Information Centre was receiving urgent attention.

The Information Centre, she noted, would serve as a resource from which government agencies, public and private stakeholders and the public at large could draw upon to implement tsunami and other coastal hazard safety measures to save life and property. The Warning Centre, Ms. Thomas explained, would monitor the Caribbean and adjacent regions for seismic events and tsunamis and issue appropriate warnings and advisories as necessary.

The Head of the local Department of Emergency Management (DEM) also revealed that over the past 500 years, there had been 105 tsunami events reported in the Caribbean and adjacent regions, "with 39 of these occurring within the last 100 years or so." Barbados experienced effects from the tsunami generated by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, she said.

The ICG/CARIBE EWS meeting will conclude tomorrow Thursday, June 4th.

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