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Big gap in Tonga's tsunami warning system, says Met director

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

By Ueretan Bauro

Tonga's tsunami warning system is inadequate to respond to a tsunami that might be generated by a local earthquake, Tonga’s Director of Meteorology, Ofa Fa’anunu told the plenary at the Third Pacific Meteorological Council in Nuku'alofa today.

If an earthquake happens now in the Tongan Trench, [and it generates a tsunami] it would take 15 to 20 minutes to arrive,” he said.

He was responding to Samoa’s presentation on hazard and disaster early warning systems, which include a Tsunami Warning System.

'Ofa said Tonga relies on SMS messaging to warn people of incoming tsunami and to give advice on what to do.

However, this system does not reach everyone in Tonga, and probably only those with operational mobile-phones can access the warning, so this is not enough.

The only AM Radio in Tonga that has a full coverage of the country operates from 6:00am and closes at midnight,” he said.

'Ofa is concerned about a “big gap” in the way people react to the warnings of an incoming tsunami. “Either they would act quickly and move to safety or just regard it as another warning. That is our main worry,” he said.

His office continues to conduct community outreach programs in Tonga, “conveying guidelines to the people on the best practices to take when a tsunami warning is issued. If you walk in the streets you will see posts with tsunami notices on them,” he said.

The Tongan Meteorological Office is working on finding practical solutions to effectively warn the entire population of an expected tsunami. - SPREP

Ueretan Bauro, the Editor of Te Uekera Newspaper, Kiribati Broadcasting and Publication Authority, is in Tonga with a Pacific Media Team covering the Third Pacific Meteorological Council.

See also articles on Tonga tsunamis:

1 October 2009 Tsunami wrecks Niuatoputapu

2 October 2009 Niuatoputapu disaster claims nine lives

Comments

Ako'i e kakai ko e hao meihe sunami ko e lele ki mo'unga. Ko e kolo kotoape 'oku nau 'ilo 'a e feitu'u ma'olunga pe mo'unga ke lele kiai ka fai ha fakatokanga sunami. Tufa ta'etotongi atu fanga ki'i telefoni (mobile) ki he kau 'ofisa-kolo, kau pule-fakavahe, kau faifekau, kau pisope etc ko e me'a fakatokanga sunami. Ako'i ko 'ene ngingi hake pe telefoni pea fakaava hake 'oku 'asi mai fo'ilea 'sunami' pea mahino leva 'oku 'i ai e sunami 'oku ha'u. Kapau ko e 'ofisa-kolo pea lele 'o ta ha fu'u nge'esi kapa pe tu'afale, pea ko e faifekau lele 'o ta fafangu pe lali, kapau 'oku 'i ai moha kele'a pea ifi moia. Ko 'ene 'a mohe hake pe kakai 'o mahino ko e sunami, pea takitaha to'o 'ene kulo 'o ta tu'u pe ke fafangu fa'ahinga 'oku kei mohe, 'efi fanau mo e fanga pusi 'o lele ki mo'unga. Ko 'eku 'uhinga atu ki 'Ene'io. Sai pe 'a Tukulalo ia he 'ikai to ai ha sunami ia he 'oku sai 'enau lotu.....SAIA.

'Etita, kou tokanga atu au pe 'e lava ke too'i sunami senisoa (sensor) mu'a 'a e potu tahi Tonga hono kotoa. Taha ki he ongo Niua, taha ki Vava'u lahi, taha ki Ha'apai Veu pea taha ki Tongatapu mo 'Eua. Fo'i senisa pe 'e fa. Ko hono 'uhinga ka totolo mai e sunami he po'uli hange ha pusi kaimoa, lolotonga 'ete kei maa'u mohe kuo fa'aki e fu'u peau. 'Oiaue hoto fakapo mahalo e lahi atu e mate. Ko e tanaki atu pe eni ki he fokotu'u malie 'i 'olunga. Taha i tahi ke tanaki e data mei tahi pea taha mei 'uta - 'a ia ko e fu'u me'a fakaongo sunami 'i loto fonua. Ko 'ene kekee tu'o taha pe e fu'u me'a fakaongo ko'eni, 'osi 'ilo lelei 'e he tokotaha kotoa e feitu'u ke hola 'o toi kiai. Kuo 'osi lele a Tonga ia he fakatokanga Saikolone toe pe eni e sunami.