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LETTER OF THE DAY - Whatever happened to tsunami warning stations?

Published:Thursday | March 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

After the massive earthquake near Sumatra, near Banda Aceh in 2004, did not the Government of Jamaica make commitments with the Government of the United States of America to commence the construction of a tsunami early-warning system in the Caribbean, mainly due to the fact that the entire region is a set of active subduction zones and plates?

According to the article 'Jamaica tsunami alert centre on fast track' published Wednesday, January 24, 2007 in The Gleaner, there was indeed such a proposal as then local government minister Dean Peart had signed a memorandum of understanding that would have been approved by the then attorney general paving the way for the construction of such a facility. This facility would have nine sensors or stations placed under sea with a buoy marking the location of the station. But it wasn't.

This is interesting, as we are now back in the same situation again, with the making of more eloquent speeches after the scares of the Haiti and Chile earthquakes and dire warnings from our engineers pointing to the possibility of near total annihilation of Kingston as stated in the March 2 article '8.8 tremor would destroy 70 per cent of Kingston's buildings, say engineers in another newspaper. We all seem to have forgotten this and like black-footed ferrets in the Arizona Desert, we stand with little noses wrinkled in consternation contending with what apparently seems to be foremost in our minds - the possibility of losing our good relationship (and visas) with the US because of our non-compliance and foot-dragging in extraditing Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

Undersea quake

The renewed proposals to build such a facility seem to have been shelved again and all the talk of the University of the West Indies getting government assistance to purchase needed digital equipment to help better monitor and warn of earthquakes and tsunamis was just only that - talk. Granted with an earthquake on land, one wonders how one is able to 'warn' of something so sudden, save to just duck and seek cover before you are buried alive. At least with a tsunami, with offshore warning stations that detect an undersea quake, once detected, the information can be relayed to people living in the coastal areas to move further inland, depending on how far out the earthquake struck.

The Government of Jamaica must, however, foot the bill for this project, which I hope, will not be a case of "too little too late" when it comes to forward planning in preparing for this type of disaster.

I am, etc.,


Milk River PO