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Tsunami warning and response critical to saving lives

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Front row from left, Leveni ‘Aho Director of NEMO, Dr. Laura Kong Director of the International Tsunami Information Centre, ‘Alifeleti Tu‘ihalamaka Acting CEO MEIDECC, Rajendra Prasad Programme Officer for UNESCO/IOC Risk Reduction and Tsunami and ‘Ofa Fa‘anunu Director of Meteorology with participants of the Tsunami Warning and Emergency Response Workshop. NEMO Office, Nuku‘alofa. 24 August 2015

Tsunamis pose a danger to Tonga's coastal communities and early warning of a severe tsunami event  and appropriate response by the public, will be critical to saving lives.

A one-week training for first responders to a tsunami threat started on Monday, 24 August, aiming to improve and address gaps in early warning system, procedures and response in Tonga. 

The training was attended by representatives from various Government Ministries and NGOs. They are looking at tsunami standard operating procedures, early warning and coordination, tsunami evacuation, awareness and response.

Ofa Fa’anunu, Director of the National Tsunami Warning Centre said since October 2014, Tonga has been responsible for issuing its own tsunami warnings.

"It is vital that all parties work together at a national level to ensure that public education is carried out and the public are able to respond in a timely manner to a tsunami threat."

Be prepared

Dr Laura Kong, Director of the International Tsunami Information Center based in Hawaii said we do not know when and where a tsunami will occur so we must be prepared.

National Emergency Management Office Director Leveni ‘Aho stress the need for resilience.

The tsunami threat for Tonga is extremely high and the impact of such events on our islands could be devastating. We must be proactive in ensuring that we build community resilience to tsunami,” he said.

The training which is also attended by officials from the outer islands runs from August 24-27 hosted by MEIDECC in partnership with UNESCO Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission, the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Geo-Nuclear Science NZ and the International Tsunami Information Centre.

Nine people had died in Niuatoputapu from a tsunami in 2009.