Mediterranean tsunami threat to MENA cities: UN

The United Nations has warned that major cities in or near the Mediterranean Sea are at risk of a tsunami.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said there is a nearly 100 percent chance that a wave of more than 1 meter high will reach these cities in the next 30 years.

It said the risk is rising in line with sea levels, and while countries in the Pacific and Indian Ocean are alert to the threat, Mediterranean coastlines are not.

A 2018 study found that rising sea levels increased the risk of tsunamis because they allow waves to move further.

UNESCO said five Mediterranean communities, including Alexandria in Egypt and Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, would join a 40-strong “tsunami-ready” list of towns and cities.

The “tsunami-ready” program, which covers 21 countries, is part of the United Nations’ efforts to ensure that at-risk communities are prepared.

Referring to the Indian Ocean and Japanese tsunamis, Bernardo Aliga, UNESCO’s chief tsunami expert, said, “The tsunamis of 2004 and 2011 were a wake-up call, killing 230,000 and 13,000 people, respectively.

“We have come a long way since 2004. We are safe today. But there are flaws in the preparations and we need to rectify them; We need to make sure the warnings are understood by visitors and communities.”

Since 2004, the United Nations Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has responded to approximately 125 tsunami events. It has set up 12 new warning stations, including one in Turkey.

“Tsunami risk has been underestimated in most regions, including the Mediterranean,” Aliga said. “Events are not very frequent and the risk does not change from generation to generation.”

He added: “We need to get the message out. In the Mediterranean, there is no question about it: it is not, when is it.”

But while these centers go a long way in preparing communities, Aliga told The Guardian: “Warning is not the whole story, the second part is community preparedness – how people behave and react. has a way.”

Authorities in Alexandria, Istanbul and other Mediterranean cities are preparing “tsunami-ready” policies that include new evacuation signs and technology.

Aliga said many of these cities are popular tourist destinations, so education is also important. “We want 100% of communities, where there is a proven threat, to be ready to respond by 2030,” he said.

“They will have evacuation maps, they will have practiced and they will already have 24-hour alerts,” he said.

“If it is a local tsunami, you have at most 20 minutes before the first wave hits. The second wave is bigger and comes 40 minutes after the first wave. You still have chances to survive.”