Tsunami Preparedness In The Caribbean


How many people know that there is the ever present possibility that the Caribbean can be affected by a tsunami? Barbadians over the years have contracted a false sense of security as complacency has taken root. Barbados experienced an earthquake recently which measured 5.3 on the Richter Scale and there was bedlam which followed. When the reaction of Barbadians to a moderate earth tremor is assessed against what Californians or even the Trinidadians confront routinely for that matter, we think you get the picture. Barbadians continue to build homes which cannot withstand a 60 mph wind gust, use steel in the building of our structures which is of the inferior variety, now we have to say to them watch out for tsunamis. It makes the BU household go hmmm.

For those doubting Thomases, the record shows that there has been the occurrence of tsunamis of which the “most recent catastrophes occurred in the San Blas Islands (Panama) in 1882, in Puerto Rico in 1918 and the Dominican Republic in 1946.” The last time we checked Barbados was located in the same archipelago as Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic! It is interesting to note that the Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG) which was set-up to establish early tsunami warning systems for the Caribbean region held its first meeting in Barbados in 2006. Coincidentally, “the third session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG) for the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CARIBE EWS), will be held in Panama, from March 12 -14.” and the outcome of that meeting should be of concern to all Barbadians.

The Caribbean region is currently being monitored by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC). Obviously the logistics of this entity which is located in the Pacific area presents a logistical issue to start. We are happy to learn that the plan is for the Caribbean region to have its own rapid response centre by 2010. As a region we want to minimize lost of life if a tsunami were to strike in the Caribbean given that people is our greatest resource. The other important aspect is linked to the Caribbean region being a favourite destination by millions of tourists annually who are to be found lazing on our beautiful beaches most of their stay.

We decided to highlight this known threat and what is being done by the various agencies to safeguard the region.

Resource: ReliefWeb


39 thoughts on “Tsunami Preparedness In The Caribbean

  1. I think the authorities have to educate the population more on this topic. Barbados is below sea level which make it even more vulnerable. I remember coming in on a cruise last year and in contrast to the other islands which are mountainous it seemed as if the land mass just appeared from under the sea, whereas approaching the other islands you saw mountainous land mass from way out. I am very concerned that Barbadians do not take contingency planning seriously.

  2. The authorities have to place serious emphasis on educating the population on tsunami preparedness. Barbados, especially is seriously below sea level in contrast to many of the other Caribbean islands. That fact was brought home more to me last year when I was coming home on a cruise. Most of the other islands have some type of mountainous land mass so that at least when you are approaching you can see something in the distance. With Barbados on the other hand you see nothing and then all of a suddden it seems as if the land just appears from under the sea. I find that Barbadians do not take contingency planning seriously at all and I am very concerned about that. Maybe it should be started at primary school level because it is done in countries like the Phillipines and Thailand which are proned to these type of disasters.

  3. Can someone please, probably a UWI professor, come on here and tell Bajans once and for all that Barbados is not below sea level?

    I don’t know where this old wives’ tale started, but it is remarkably widely held, in spite of our highly educated population.

  4. what also makes it strange is the fact that only a few earthquakes the media reports, we only hear about an earthquake once a week or so once de media report um, but do you people know that each day there are some 10+ earthquakes every single day of the year?

  5. Hi Everyone:

    As far as I am aware, all visible parts of Barbados, including the bottoms of all excavated quarries, and gullies, are above mean sea level. However, it may be possible that the bottom of Graeme Hall Swamp might be below mean sea level. Some one else will have to confirm that.


  6. You know that your photo is a fake, right? This photoshop fake was sent all around the world an hour after the big one in Indonesia. I saw an article somewhere about how tsunamis don’t look like that and the photo was fake. I’ll see if I can find it for you.

  7. David,
    There are so many ways to cause a big splash….

    I wonder if there was not a very good reason why beach land was seen by Bajans of old as ‘rab’ land…(common sense?) Have you checked where rich plantation owners built in days of old?

    The Bajan beach front should be open and available to be enjoyed by all residents and visitors. Those rich, selfish persons who build their palaces there – blocking the Island’s beauty from everyone else will one day pay…. and our beaches will become open and available to be enjoyed by all again…
    …right after the inevitable.

  8. David,

    What harsh what?!?

    What should happen when selfish persons are able to bribe/ influence or otherwise convince pathetic politicians – whose reason for being was to become wealthy- in order to achieve personal objectives that are clearly contrary to the overall national good?

    (forgive the long sentence – but i vex)

    You remember proxies making 8 million dollar profits when powerful ministers changed land zones just so?

    you think those things are right?

    you don’t feel somebody should get lock up?

    You don’t feel that PM Thompson should change back the land Zone? (if one PM could ‘unzone’ it another one must be could ‘zone it back’) LOL

    You see the thing down there in St James by the Telephone exchange David?

    You pass down Paynes Bay to Holetown recently?
    .. somebody want locking up….

    …. this even worse than the Eagle Hall Market (but just barely. LOL)

  9. Can someone please, probably a UWI professor, come on here and tell Bajans once and for all that Barbados is not below sea level?
    Good article BU. It is an excellent way to sensitised Barbadians about Tsunami Preparedness as some Barbadians feel that “it can’t happen bout hay”.

    You don’t have to engage any professor to see that certain parts of Barbados is below sea level and that we never experienced such an event.

    Well let me enlightened all the doubtful thomases. Have you ever visited the area called Harrysmith next to Sam Lord’s Castle? Have you taken a look at that massive rock that came from the deep ocean bed and resting on the ridge to the east of that derelict building? Well, let me enlighten you, that rock is about forty feet above sea level and was place upsided by the elements many years ago, it was not moved by COW or Rayside equipment, it was not by men, the only possibility could be a Tsunami many, many years ago. Next time you are in that area, just take a look at this monstrous rock and you will see sea fans embedded upside down on the rock .

    The next questionable area of such occurrence is in the area by Cherry Tree Hill. Just take a look at the East Coast Road/Belleplaine shoreline and you will see the sea level is partially higher close to the shore, but the area going inland is below sea level. To be more realistic, it might be possible that the sea came inland, since many areas deep in the vegetation, you will see large areas of sea sand in many caves as far as the St. Thomas area.

    Another fact is the Caribbean belt leading right up to the US coastline where there is a deep ridge, as a matter of fact, the entire Caribbean countries are perched on a massive mountain-like ridge. Have you not wonder how come our shoreline is shallow and the further you go the deeper it would be, eventually, you will encountered hair raising drop offs with miles deep in the ocean. This brings us to the problem off the coast of Tobago where an underground volcanic activity exploding is eminent.

    Far off the African Coast, close to the Azores, is a large chunk of a mountain that could break away and fall into the sea. If that happen, the sheer speed of that break away rushing into the sea can caused a sudden surge which in effect will cause a tsunami. Remember in the Indonesian part of the world, earthquakes are the major causes of Tsunamis.

    Back here in Barbados, we must take a closer look at reclaimed land from the sea. The sea is synonymous to mathematics. When you borrow, you must pay back. Simply, when you placed boulders into the sea and reclaim part of the sea, surprisingly, the sea goes to another area and reclaim the land.

    We are simply taking things for granted.

    So Straight Talk, do your own research, start hiking, look at the fields and hills from good vantage points like the eastern side of Farley Hill, Cherry Tree Hill, Mount Hillaby, the road leading to Atlantis Hotel in Bathsheba, as a matter of fact any area with a clear vantage point and you will see another side of Barbados.

  10. hello readers, I am amazed that people in 2008 in Barbados still think that we are under sea level.Let me make it quite clear, there are places on earth that are under sea level for example parts of Guyana, Holland, Bangledash and maybe parts of india. These countries are swamp like and their inhabitants cultivate water loving crops such as rice.

    We in Barbados and the caribbean are being fooled by these agencies by thinking that we are being monitored by the PTWC.

    Come on guys! to monitor an area we must first install sensors in the form of buoys. These buoys shall be placed among the caribbean sea and the atlantic ocean.

    There are no evidence that buoys were placed in these waters at all. David I need some help ,you seem to be a guy who can resourse information to shed some light on this matter. I remember you from the fire service column. Yes, I am a university science student.

    On numerous occasions the high ranking members of CERO attend many international seminars worldwide. With this knowledge, structures and procedures should be already in place to educate the public about this possible threat. CERO is not practical,they just talk and draw a big monthly salary…..

  11. Tell Me Why!!!! You couldn’t of said it better.I like your theories and they make sense .

    The extinct volcano off the African coast in the Azores islands that you have mensioned in an earlier comment. It is estimated that the tsunami generated from that catastrophic landslide will trigger a one thousand ft (1000) mega tsunami which will spand the whole atlantic moving at approximately 300 -500 miles per hour .

    It will travel 19miles inland in new york city.. I am not trying to scare you guys but thats the reality of it.

    CERO stated earlier that a tsunami generated from kick em’ jenny would travel or flood about two miles inland. Ladies and gentlemen, the statistics of that evidence were taken from the occurance of a storm surge during a hurrican, not a tsunami which is a completely different type of wave .

    Having this knowledge, we can actually see how prepared we really are for that type of disaster.

  12. We have quite enough on our plate, worrying about African snails and overstaying tourists,
    Kick’em Jenny and Chinese slave labour, Guyanese boogymen and Trini conglomerates,
    earth tremors and cave-ins, hairstyles and weedwhackersfor the boys.

    Get real, aint gonna happen.

    Even if it does, what could we do?

    BTW if half of La Palma in the Canary Isles does slip, we should expect a 50ft wave, not 1000ft, and that won’t bother us, will it?

    We already live under sea level !

  13. ‘Straight talk’ where you getting this information from. BARBADOS IS NOT UNDER SEA LEVEL. Think about it ,if a 5.0 richter scale earthquake can trigger a tsunami that is 100ft ,why cant half of an island slipping under which involves many times more energy than an earthquake trigger a wave that high…

    Go to the national geographic website please!!!!

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  15. It seems that the Nation is always late with some news. The question: Should the Nation not have seen the need to do a spread by way of educating the public?

    Tsunami warning system for UN meeting
    Published on: 3/13/08.

    AN INDEPENDENT tsunami early warning system for the Caribbean region, in place by 2010 at the latest, became a step closer yesterday.

    A United Nations (UN)-backed coordination group will decide whether to give the go-ahead for a regional data-sharing system.

    According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNESCO, the creation of the real-time sharing system for existing seismic monitoring networks will be discussed at the third session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions taking place in Panama which ends tomorrow.

    An implementation plan, drafted by a group of experts from the member states and the secretariat of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, will be submitted for approval during the meeting. (UN)

  16. UPDATE

    Caribbean plans tsunami warning system by 2010
    Fri Mar 14, 2008 3:39am IST By Andrew Beatty

    PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Caribbean states will set up a joint tsunami warning center before the end of the decade, governments agreed at a meeting in Panama on Thursday.

    Supporters want the center to relay information from national geological institutes across the region, providing an early warning system that could help prevent deaths and infrastructure damage in the event of a tsunami.

    Peter Koltermann, executive secretary of the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, told a meeting of around 30 Caribbean states that the likelihood of a tsunami hitting the region at some point was “probable.”

    He said a regional warning center could help prevent disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed around 230,000 people.

    Koltermann had said during a session on Wednesday that “the situation in the Indian Ocean was similar to the Caribbean. Nobody believed it would happen, but it happened.”

    He said Panama’s interoceanic canal could be vulnerable to a sea surge from an underwater earthquake, and any shutdown would hit global trade. “If this canal does not work for one week, four weeks, or six weeks because of a tsunami, it is a huge danger and loss for the economy.”

    Participating countries included Jamaica, Barbados and Central American nations.

    Although most tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean, experts estimate there have been around 105 tsunamis in the Caribbean and surrounding areas in the last 500 years, including one in Panama in 1882, causing more than 4,500 deaths. Continued…

  17. Hi, awesome information here! May I use one of your tsunami pictures for thinkquest assignment? I’d really appreciate it you allow me to.

  18. @All…

    Just in case anyone who is in Barbados (or the Caribbean) isn’t yet aware (since there’s been nothing about this in two out the three major news outlets on this topic) there is a *very* serious storm headed our way right now.

    It will probably miss Barbados. “God is a Bajan” after all… But there is a non-zero probabilty that it *won’t* miss Bim…

    For those who believe that God takes care of those who take care of themselves, may I please suggest everyone store water (and food) however they can. (This advice actually applies to everyone.)

    To share, http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/ is the tool of my choice for honest information in this domain.

  19. I’m not being funny, but how can we even begin to take you seriously when you call Bajans, Barbadians i mean get the simple facts right first before you start going on about eathquakes etc.

  20. The Bajan beach front should be open and available to be enjoyed by all residents and visitors. Those rich, selfish persons who build their palaces there – blocking the Island’s beauty from everyone else will one day pay…. and our beaches will become open and available to be enjoyed by all again…
    …right after the inevitable

    Painful as it is ( for both of us ) I wholeheartedly agree with BT here.

  21. Hey Chris thanks for the warning .
    Just checked the hurracaine cupboard- it resembles Old Mother Hubbards.
    My wife has been stealing from it again!

  22. Read this, our top layer disintegrating from water erosion may be a greater worry than a tsunami.

    From the Nation bews today,

    A huge hole has opened in Brittons Hill, St Michael, less than a mile from Arch Cot where a tragic cave-in claimed five lives four years ago.

    The hole is on the grounds of the Eastern Caribbean Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) offices at Brydens Avenue.

    Yesterday Government’s chief geologist Andre Brathwaite ventured briefly into the opening and confirmed that it was an underground cave.

    “I don’t want to cause any alarm, but we have a serious problem here,” Brathwaite said, as he pointed out that the cave was running south-west and was 25 feet wide and 15 feet deep with the potential to drop further.

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