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Is Belize ready for a Tsunami? Print E-mail

At 9:51 on Tuesday night, an earthquake struck in the north eastern waters off the coast of Honduras. It had a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale. Within a minute of the quake a tremor was felt across the country of Belize, that was followed by a second just a few seconds later. Minutes later the fire service began blaring sirens at all coastal fire stations. Fire Chief, Ted Smith, explained that “once a tsunami warning is given for the coast or specific portion of Belize, then the fire service operation plan for Belize will kick in.” On Tuesday night it meant that sirens at the fire stations would begin to blare and mobile units would also traverse in the various communities warning people of the possibility of disaster. That took place along the entire coast of Belize.

But outside of the sirens blaring the only plan was to advise people to move to higher ground. In this instance Minister responsible for the National Emergency Management Organization, (NEMO) told the press that there is no tsunami protocols for the country. Hon. Castro was plain speaking when he explained that when he received the call on Tuesday night was the first he had heard of a Tsunami Center which tracks tsunamis in this part of the world. He stated that, “we will have to try and develop one. We will have to get information from the tsunami center and look at other regions on how they handle such events like a tsunami and see how we can develop a protocol in the event of a tsunami for our region in Belize.” Castro added that, “We need to educate ourselves and population on what to do. We cannot predict when an earthquake will strike and the time of a tsunami to strike. In this case we had about an hour for preparation and 15 minute updates from the tsunami center.”

All told however, the Minister noted that NEMO performed well having coordinators across the country tracking the movement of water along the coast. More so the actions taken by NEMO to inform people of the possibility that waters could possibly hit the coast it triggered movement across the country with people mobilizing to seek higher ground.  Shortly thereafter shelters were opened in Belize City with the Marion Jones being the first to be opened and manned and plans put in place to open the Civic center should it had become necessary.

Hon. Castro noted that, “this is the first of its kind for us. This is a new wave that we will have to look at when there is an earthquake especially in the ocean. We have to prepare ourselves for this type of disaster that might come our way.” He added that, “we are as prepared as we could be as from the point of view of warning the residents and warning the people along the coast to move to safer grounds”.