Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has signed a proclamation which designates this week Tsunami Awareness Week in the Virgin Islands to encourage residents and visitors to be mindful of the threat of a tsunami.
The Virgin Islands are situated in one of the world’s most seismically active regions, experiencing more than 1,000 tremors each year. In 1867, a major earthquake generated a local tsunami that reached the shores of our islands within 10 minutes, killing 30 lives people. At that time, most laborers worked at inland plantations—today, the territory’s shorelines are filled with businesses, residential communities and schools, and the main port is lined with cruise ships, the governor noted in the proclamation.
“Enhancing the territory’s readiness through planning, training and exercising for all hazards, especially catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis, is a critical and essential component of preparedness for these rare but tremendously destructive events,” de Jongh said Monday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration established the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in 1967 as a response to the Good Friday quake. Today, the center operates around the clock, issuing tsunami advisories and warnings for the east and west coasts of the United States and Canada, as well as for the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
By obtaining local and federal funding, the government of the Virgin Islands has begun work to raise awareness of tsunami preparedness, and has purchased a tsunami siren warning system to provide early notification to communities near the coastline.
Territorial and federal officials continue collaborating to develop “Tsunami Ready” communities across the Virgin Islands through programs that promote tsunami hazard preparedness and community awareness. On Monday, de Jongh encouraged all citizens, especially those living and working along the territory’s coastlines, to prepare for tsunami hazards, and educate themselves on the appropriate response to tsunami warnings.
As he did over the weekend, the governor today reminded Virgin Islanders that on Wednesday, the territory will join several Caribbean communities in participating in a tsunami warning drill intended to evaluate local response plans, test recently upgraded emergency infrastructure, and increase preparedness.
The Virgin Islands drill will be part of a full-scale national tsunami exercise involving the National Weather Service, and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centers. “The recent tragedy in Japan should serve as another warning about the very real dangers faced by coastal communities like ours, and make very clear the significance of this exercise,” de Jongh said.