TSUNAMI ALERTS PROVIDE REAL TIME TEST FOR INDIAN OCEAN ISLANDS AND EAST AFRICA
When news broke yesterday about an 8.6 initial earthquake off Indonesias Aceh province, followed by an 8.2 strong aftershock, Tsunami alerts were sounded across the Indian Ocean and as far as the African mainland. When the alert was called off hours later, mechanisms had already kicked in from the Seychelles to Mauritius, Madagascar to the Comoros and of course along the extensive coastlines of Kenya and Tanzania, putting in place alarms for the fishing communities, often only linked with two way radios from shore, the entire shipping industry, ports and of course most notably beach resorts, which were warned to take safeguards to remove their equipment from the beaches and stand by for formal evacuation notices to take guests to higher land, should indeed a tsunami wave hit as was the case following the Boxing Day disaster in 2004. From Lamu over Malindi to Mombasa and the beaches further along the South Coast, to Zanzibar and the Tanzanian mainland beach resorts were the alarms sounded, and tweets monitored from as far as the Seychelles and Mauritius showed that the warnings had been received and were being acted upon.
We were already aware of the situation in Indonesia via global news broadcasts and followed events said a regular source from Mombasas hospitality industry, before adding It all become official when authorities in Mombasa sent out their own advisory and started to actively prepare for a possible tsunami strike on our beaches. There are now contingency plans in place, I think right across East Africas coast line where tourist resorts are found, to evacuate beaches. When a tsunami is then confirmed as coming for real, even evacuations to higher ground are part of the drill. The preparations include our armed forces, police, provincial, district and local administrations and all the hospitals and their staff are put on notice. When the alert was withdrawn the preparations were stopped but I think it will provide us with good information where we must improve or tighten responses for future cases. It was like a real time emergency drill this time and it will help us to be better prepared next time something like this happens. I think we are all happy nothing happened here in our part of the world but we are of course very sorry for those poor people in Aceh who again suffered a big earthquake.
Notably was the Kenya Red Cross involved in the thick of the action, well prepared as it turned out as only recently some major disaster training had been extended to volunteers, while the Kenya Wildlife Service too played a major role in areas demarcated as marine national parks, with staff also busy clearing the beaches of equipment while sending tourists back to their resorts. Local administrations as well as Kenyas armed forces, in particular the Navy, had been put on high alert to prepare for major evacuations and emergency responses, none of which was however needed in the end. Watch this space.