In an effort to boost Saint Lucia’s preparedness for a possible tsunami, the National Emergency Management Organisation ( NEMO) said it is willing to facilitate more training to small pockets of people or groups in communities across the island.
Director for NEMO Dawn French told St Lucia News Online SNO in a recent interview that Saint Lucia must be prepared if such an event is to occur here and the only way the island could be fully prepared, is by understanding how to respond to such a disaster.
“NEMO is also willing to facilitate training sessions with communities once there is a desire and request made,” French said.
She said a simulation exercise done this year in Soufriere attracted a large response from a wide cross section of people.
A similar exercise was done in 2013 in Vieux Fort, but the response was not as huge. This, she said, is an indication that people want to learn more about tsunamis.
“The response this year was dramatically different than the one last year, not that the people didn’t take part, but the national response to it has been so electric. We worked with the Ministry of Education to get the schools involved, the private sector, the police, the fire service,” she explained.
Communities are now requesting their own personal training and more are encouraged to participate. Persons wishing to get training can contact their village councils, who will make contact with their district disaster committee to facilitate this process.
French said NEMO is also actively involved in educating the student population on how to respond to a tsunami. She said because of the nature of a tsunami, the agency must use intensive methods of training so that each participant has a solid understanding of what to expect. Apart from that, people tend to have many questions, especially since such a natural disaster is new to the entire Caribbean.
“In order for the information to penetrate you have to go into offices and schools and churches and that is what we do… you find it’s more one on one, because there is a lot of questions that come up once you start talking about tsunami,” she stated.
NEMO has been training people for a number of years, but despite this, French said training is still in its early stages because normally when people think of preparing for a tsunami they think of putting the signs out there and then the disaster happens, but a tsunami is much worst, and to prepare for this, people need to be properly educated first.
French said if the focal point of a tsunami for Saint Lucia had to trigger an alarm the objective would be to get everyone together and have everyone respond effectively, with minimal chaos.
“Work is still to be done by our agency and other emergency agencies, so that we are informed and we can help our fellow man and people… It is still something new for the Caribbean, but not so much for the Pacific. A lot of education and informing the populace of such an event has to be done so that we can appreciate and understand the nature of a tsunami,” French reiterated.
Tsunami experts in the United Kingdom said recently that the Caribbean could be at risk from a mega-tsunami that could devastate coastlines from Florida to Brazil following a volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands.
The wave generated by part of a mountain collapsing into the sea would be the biggest ever recorded and would be an unstoppable force, travelling at speeds of up to 500mph.
According to reports, the tsunami could reach heights of 130ft to 164ft throughout the region and travel several miles inland, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The model predicts that after the landslide the tsunami would travel a distance of almost 155 miles in just 10 minutes and would reach the Caribbean and Florida in eight or nine hours.
The forecast also predict that a wall of water 164ft high could smash into the coasts of the Caribbean and Florida, while Brazil’s northern coast could be hit by a wave more than 130ft high.
Saint Lucia, among other Caribbean states, has been preparing such an event for several years now. NEMO is the focal point organisation for education and training on all natural disasters here and is made up of government office, non-governmental organisations, faith based groups’, civic society and individuals.