Tsunami test will take commonwealth back to 1755

Test tomorrow will recreate the decimating earthquake of 1755 so that authorities in the Danish commonwealth can be prepared for the real deal

The Danish commonwealth will take part in an international tsunami warning system practise drill tomorrow that will evaluate the realm's information channels during an emergency.

The meteorological institute DMI will host delegates from Greenland and the Faroe Islands who will participate in a test focusing on the effectiveness of tsunami warning systems in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The test is being undertaken in a bid to improve the reaction in an emergency and reduce the risk of accidents and deaths.

The warning system for the Danish commonwealth is set up so that the tsunami centre in Portugal, IPMA (Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera), will send warnings to Denmark via fax, email and the Global Telecommunications System, GTS. The warnings are received in Denmark by DMI.

For tomorrow's exercise, the earthquake off Portugal’s coast in 1755, which decimated the city of Lisbon, will be used as a case. IPMA will send the first warning before noon and after that will continuously send updates on the tsunami's spread around the earthquake’s epicentre, which is registered by a number of water-level measurers. During the exercise, the information is analysed and a plan of reaction is initialised.

Each individual nation is responsible for channelling information to their emergency units and civilians, which is one of the reasons why the delegates from Greenland and the Faroe Islands are also participating.

“Should a powerful earthquake occur again in the same seabed area we shouldn’t fear much here in Denmark, as the tsunami would only be a few centimetres. But there is a risk of tsunami waves exceeding one metre in Greenland and the Faroe Islands,” Ole Krarup Leth, a DMI oceanographer, told Berlingske newspaper.

The goal is to get an overview of what it will take for the whole commonwealth to develop a complete tsunami warning system, which would entail all public authorities in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroes knowing their responsibilities in the case of a real tsunami warning. The Danish commonwealth's tsunami-work force group is made up of representatives from the Danish emergency agency Beredskabsstyrelsen, the Danish national police, the Coastal Directorate, the Faroese police, the Faroese Earth and Energy Directorate, Greenland’s head of police and DMI.

“We will discuss with the other actors involved how we would react, such as possibly sending the police to vulnerable coastal areas to warn the population,” Leth told Berlingske.

The tsunami warning system testing comes in the wake of German geographers warning in April that the west coast of Denmark could be at risk. DMI, however, indicated that the risk of a tsunami off Danish coasts was very low and predicted that a tsunami was likely to occur once every 1,000 years.

According to experts, the Mediterranean Sea is the most susceptible water mass in Europe, due to high seismic activity in the region.

Tsunami prediction systems were first attempted in Hawaii in the 1920s, but prediction systems in Europe have gained momentum following the December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed over 230,000 people and displaced millions more.

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