About 7,000 people will be evacuated from 14 Sri Lankan villages, while about 8,000 students will participate in simulated evacuations in Oman. In India, about 35,000 people will take part in evacuations from 350 villages over the next two days.
“Simulating tsunami waves travelling across the Indian Ocean, both exercises will be conducted in real time lasting about 12 hours,” said UNESCO.
Earlier this year, authorities had the opportunity to see the system at work after a magnitude 7.8 quake off Sumatra on 2 March set off warnings in several countries.
In Indonesia, the BMKG sent its first bulletin within five minutes, warning local and regional authorities of the temblor. Ten minutes later it followed up with a tsunami warning bulletin, which was cancelled half an hour later, according to Sakya, the agency’s director general.
That’s the way the warning system is supposed to work at an agency level. On the ground, the response was mixed, Sakya said in a May interview. In some communities the evacuation was orderly, while there was confusion and panic in others.
“Some sirens had been turned on by the local officers, but then, after misinterpreting the tsunami information, they turned them off,” he said.
Reactions in other countries from the March quake should become clearer once a survey by UNESCO’s Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre is completed. However, the survey is hampered by a poor response rate from the 24 countries that were asked to take part; only 14 had responded as of the end of July.
(PHOTO: A tsunami evacuation sign in Sri Lanka. CREDIT: Amantha Perera/IRIN)