Tsunami threat for Tonga ‘extremely high’, authorities say

L-R Front Row,  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, Kepu ‘Ioane and ‘Ofa Fa‘anunu Director of Meteorology with participants of the Tsunami Warning and Emergency Response Workshop. Photo/Supplied

Tonga’s director of NEMO, Lēveni ‘Aho  told trainees in Nukuʻalofa today that tsunami threat to the kingdom is “extremely high” and it would hugely destroy the environments if it hit.

Lēveni was not alone in his remark. The Acting CEO for MEIDECC ‘Alifeleti Tuʻihalamaka also told the training the natural disaster is a “real threat” to Tonga.

The remarks were made during a one week training in Nukuʻalofa which was also attended by representatives from the outer islands.

The training discussed tsunami standard operating procedures for first responders, early warning and coordination, tsunami evacuation, awareness and response.

“As we have seen from the Tsunami that caused the loss of 9 lives in Niuatoputapu in the 2009, tsunami is a real threat to Tonga,” Tu’ihalamaka was quoted as saying in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Tonga must be prepared for tsunami. From knowing vulnerable areas to coastal inundation, detection of earthquakes and ensuring that warning information reaches all citizens and visitors to Tonga in a timely manner and the people know what to do…..We must be ready,” Tu’ihalamaka said.

The Director of the National Tsunami Warning Centre, Mr. ‘Ofa Fa’anunu was also quoted by the press statement  as saying “Since October 2014, Tonga is now responsible for issuing its own tsunami warnings.

“This training is very timely to address gaps that currently exist in the early warning system, standard operating procedures and coordination”.

“It is vital that all parties are working together at the national level to ensure that things like public education are carried out to ensure that the public are able to respond in a timely manner to a tsunami threat”.

Dr. Laura Kong, Director of the International Tsunami Information Centre based in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi said  that “we do not know when and where a tsunami will occur so we must be prepared”.

Director of NEMO, Mr. Lēveni ‘Aho also said “the tsunami threat for Tonga is extremely high, and the impact of such an events on our islands could be devastating. We therefore must be pro-active in ensuring that we build community resilience to tsunami”.

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