Marseille, Alexandria and Istanbul prepare for the Mediterranean tsunami | tsunami

A tsunami could soon hit major cities on or near the Mediterranean including Marseille, Alexandria and Istanbul, with a near 100% chance of a wave of more than a meter in the next 30 years, according to UNESCO.

Tsunami risks are expected to rise in coastal communities of the Mediterranean with rising sea levels. While communities in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, where most tsunamis occur, were often aware of the risks, they were underestimated in other coastal areas, including the Mediterranean, UNESCO said.

Now, the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization has said that five vulnerable communities in the Mediterranean will join another 40 “tsunami-ready” towns and cities in 21 countries by next year. In addition to Marseille, Alexandria, and Istanbul, it includes Cannes and Chipiona, a town on the Atlantic coast of Spain near Cadiz.

A huge wave looms on the waterfront road, sweeping cars along the road
The moment a tsunami erupts over the Miyako waterfront from the mouth of the Higawa River after the massive 9.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan in 2011. Photo: Mainichi Shimbun/Reuters

The Tsunami Preparedness program is part of UNESCO’s broader efforts, launched ahead of the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon next week, to ensure that all communities at risk know what to do in the event of a tsunami by 2030.

“The tsunami of 2004 and 2011 was an alarm bell,” said Bernardo Aliaga, UNESCO tsunami expert. “We have come a long way since 2004. Today we are much safer. But there are preparedness gaps and we need to improve; we need to make sure the warnings are understood by visitors and communities.”

The Indian Ocean TsunamiOn Boxing Day 2004, the deadliest in history, an estimated 230,000 people were killed in 14 countries, while 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami In 2011, which reached a height of nearly 40 meters (130 ft), it killed 18,000 people in Japan.

Since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the UNESCO Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, hosted by the United States, has responded to 125 tsunami events, an average of seven per year.

Map showing the first tsunami-ready cities in the Mediterranean
UNESCO ‘tsunami-ready’ communities must develop a plan to reduce risks, identify hazardous areas, display information and maps, and raise awareness.

“Upstream is in good shape,” Aliaga said. “Work has been done to establish 12 tsunami warning centers covering most of the ocean, including the Mediterranean.”

The warning centers include five in the Mediterranean and the Northeast Atlantic including Greece, turkeyItaly, France and Portugal.

“The risk of a tsunami is underestimated in most regions, including the Mediterranean,” Aliaga said. “Events are not very frequent and the risks do not translate from one generation to the next.

“We need to get the message across,” he added. “In the Mediterranean, there is no doubt about it: not if, it’s when.”

one of the Portugal hit the deadliest earthquake in history on Halloween 1755, which led to the occurrence of a tsunami of 6 meters in height in Lisbon and Cadiz. Up to 50,000 people died in the earthquake, but many unsuspecting people perished in the ensuing fires and tsunami.

Engraving depicting the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.
Engraving depicting the Lisbon earthquake, fire, and tsunami of 1755. Photo: Science / Science History Pictures

Tsunamis of only 1.5-2 meters in height can lift cars off the ground, while smaller waves can cause water walls to travel at 40 mph (65 km/h).

“The warning is not the whole story,” Eliaga said. The second part is the preparedness of society – how people act and interact. This has a way to go.”

He was martyred Tilly Smitha 10-year-old British girl who led 100 people, including her family, to safety in the 2004 tsunami. The geography teacher at the school told her to leave immediately upon seeing the water recede.

Sea-level rise, which increases the impact of tsunamis on coastal communities, is “an additional reason to increase the pace of our action,” he said.

“The link is that sea level rise increases the effect of a tsunami.”

Tourists are seen offshore as tsunami waves loom behind them
Tourists begin to run for land as the first of the six tsunami waves began rolling toward a beach near Krabi, southern Thailand, in 2004. Photo: AFP/Getty

a Study 2018 Tsunami modeling in Macau, China, has found that rising sea levels add to the tsunami risk, as they can travel further inland. The study found that the frequency of tsunami floods increased by 1.2 to 2.4 times for an increase of 45 cm in sea level and from 1.5 to 4.7 times for an increase of 90 cm.

Aliaga said authorities in Alexandria, Istanbul, Marseille, Cannes and Chepiona are working on “tsunami” preparedness, including evacuation signs and procedures, as well as plans to warn tourists.

“We want 100% of communities, where there is a definite risk, to be ready to respond by 2030,” he said. “They will have evacuation maps, they will have done the exercises and they will already have 24 hour alerts.”

He said the alerts were triggered about 10 minutes after the earthquake, and could take the form of anything from loudspeakers to WhatsApp messages.

“If it’s a local tsunami, you have a maximum of 20 minutes before the first wave hits. The second wave is bigger and comes 40 minutes after the first. You still have the potential to escape.”

Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, said: “More than 40 communities in 21 countries are now safer and have implemented our tsunami-ready programme. If we are to meet this global challenge by 2030, we must scale up our program very quickly.”