Kiribati put tsunami warning mechanism in place

​The Officer in Charge of Kiribati Meteorological Service (KMS),Ueneta Toorua says his office has been developing a new national tsunami warning system after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii stopped its service to the Pacific in October last

“Although we flagged that Kiribati is not ready for this change, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre had to go ahead. The centre stopped providing these country specific warnings but they have continued providing tsunami information and guidelines on the propagation and expected risk level from each tsunami that could be generated from an earthquake when it actually reaches our shores,” said Toorua.

KMS is the designated national focal point for tsunami in Kiribati and operates a 24 hours a day, seven days a week, service.

“When the information about a tsunami reaches KMS, our on-duty staff will promptly summarise and analyse the information and send it to the Disaster Office based at the Office of the Te Beretitenti (Office of the President).

“We have made a concession that whatever the effect or strength of a tsunami, low, medium or high, it should be made public through Radio Kiribati. This is done to avoid confusing them especially when information is also available through the internet, via phone and from families abroad, said Toorua.

The new tsunami preparedness system was trialled when a tsunami activity was generated from the last strong earthquake that hit Solomon Islands recently.  Kiribati was on the list of countries likely to be impacted.

“My experience from that event is that we need to improve our analysis and communication to ensure the information reaches the outer islands. There is always the issue of telephone network unable to cover all the outer islands and the AM station only operating for certain hours, said Toorua.