Tonga

Tsunami 24/7 watchkeepers undergo Competency Training at the Met Office

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Tsunami Competency Training is underway at Tonga’s Tsunami Warning Centre at Fua’amotu, Tongatapu, from the 14th to 24th October 2019.

During the opening of the training event, the Director of the Tonga Meteorological Service had this to say;

“The tsunami risk for Tonga is considered extreme due to its closeness to the tectonic plate boundary (Trench Trench). Earthquakes occurring on the Tonga Trench can cause destructive tsunamis which can affect the Tonga islands within a matter of minutes. The capital Nuku’alofa is one of the capital cities in the world that is most vulnerable to tsunami. A tsunami is a long wave created mostly by earthquakes and has the potential to cause mass loss of life. This is why responding to the tsunami is one of the priority functions of the Tonga Met Service. Unfortunately, local tsunami generated from the Tonga Trench will arrive in a matter of 10-20min. At such time scales, the warning centre will struggle to get out a warning in time. That is why it is important that when people feel unusually severe ground shaking from an earthquake, they should self-evacuate inland or to the 3rd story of a concrete or steel structure.”

Since October 2014, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawai’i have ceased producing warnings for countries in the Pacific Rim although they continue to provide advise. When Tonga was Chair of the Pacific Island Countries and Territories Regional Tsunami Warning and Mitigation Working Group from 2015-19, a set of competencies have now been developed and approved at the 28th Pacific Tsunami Warning System Meeting in Nicaragua in March 2019 as a guide for 24/7 watchkeeper (shift staff).

The training being conducted in Tonga in the next 2 weeks is the first training of its kind in the Pacific Rim. Our staff are Meteorologists by trade and are trained mostly to respond to atmospheric events. However, by law and due to our 24/7 capability we are required to respond and issue warnings to tsunami events and we have to constantly train and assess the competency of the shift staff to respond to tsunami events.

The 2-week training is being conducted by Dr Laura Kong Director of the International Tsunami Information Center (NOAA), Dr Dailin Wang, Senior Oceanographer of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre and Dr Masahiro Yamamoto (retired operation Tsunami Expert from the Japan Meteorological Agency). The training is funded by the Pacific Resilience Project-Tonga Component.

The participants include 10 staff from Tonga Meteorological Services, 1 staff from the Solomon Island Meteorological Services and 1 staff from the Geological Office.

ENDS

For further information please contact the Meteorology Division on 35355 or metstaff@met.gov.to. More information is also available at www.met.gov.to