Caribbean Tsunami A Possibility – Says Expert

A United Nations climate expert has pointed to the possibility of a tsunami hitting the Caribbean region.

Although not saying it would necessarily happen, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Peter Koltermann told dozens of regional participants at a special meeting in Panama that the likelihood of such an event was “probable”.

“The situation in the Indian Ocean was similar to the Caribbean. Nobody believed it would happen, but it happened,” he said, noting that Panama’s interoceanic canal could be vulnerable to a sea surge from an underwater earthquake.

Mr Koltermann made the point as Caribbean governments agreed at the meeting – the third session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions – to set up a joint tsunami warning centre by the year 2010. The new system will replace the temporary service being provided by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

The UN official said this would provide an early warning system to prevent the loss of lives and property which a tsunami would cause.

Barbados, Puerto Rico and Venezuela have been identified as possible hosts for the centre which is projected to have a US$250, 000 annual budget.

The most recent tsunamis in the Caribbean occurred in the San Blas Islands of Panama in 1882, Puerto Rico in 1918 and the Dominican Republic in 1946.

{Adapted from International Press Reports}

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