‘Though They May Be Rare, Tsunamis Are Among the Most Devastating Natural Disasters – World Tsunami Awareness Day


4 November 2020 (UNESCO)* — Though they may be rare, tsunamis are among the most devastating natural disasters. They know no coastal borders. Coastal communities – often concentrated in low-lying and highly populated areas – are the most potentially vulnerable to coastal hazards including tsunamis, with heavy human and economic losses.

International cooperation is key for deeper political and public understanding; as well as involvement in reducing our risks from these coastal natural hazards.

In December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly designated 5 November as World Tsunami Awareness Day to promote a global culture of tsunami awareness.

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO works to coordinate national and regional tsunami early warning services, raising global awareness about effective actions, policies and practices to reduce exposure to disaster risk through its four Tsunami Warning and Mitigation Systems for the Pacific, Indian Ocean, Caribbean, and North-Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and Connected Sea regions.

The IOC also assists Member States through education programmes and regular tsunami communication and evacuation exercises, increasing the coordination, readiness for and understanding of tsunamis among citizens and communities around the world.

The 2020 edition of the World Tsunami Awareness Day (WTAD) will be jointly organized by UNDRR and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, in collaboration with other UN and external partners and under the sponsorship of the Government of Japan.

The 2020 WTAD will be structured as a 30-day campaign with key events focused on Global Target E of the Sendai Framework: Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020, with a specific focus on two key components essential to the set up and effective maintenance of risk reduction strategies and their adoption by vulnerable communities: scientific expertise and indigenous knowledge and memory.

The events will be:

1. Live screening & Panel on Tsunami Science and Tsunami Preparedeness | 13 October 2020, 08.00-10.00 UTC

Live screening (EN, FR) of the documentary “Tsunami: Facing The Global Threat”, directed by Pascal Guerin and co-produced by ZED, ARTE and Curiosity Stream, a 52-minute film that follows a group of scientists as they head to Palu, Indonesia, in a rush against time to find out why the Palu tsunami was so deadly, before bulldozers level the ground and ahead of the Monsoon season.

The live streaming will be followed by a panel discussion (simultaneous interpretation EN/FR available).

Watch event 

2. Regional Webinars 

A series of webinars organized by the regional UNESCO/IOC teams in charge of coordinating regional tsunami early warning systems, and in cooperation with UNDRR regional offices.

The webinars will focus on the need to connect state-of-the-art scientific expertise with local community preparedness to ensure science-based tsunami local plans are in place, including through UNESCO/IOC-lead Tsunami Ready recognition processes.

Caribbean and Adjacent Regions(link is external) (3 November 2020, 10.00-12.00 AST)

Pacific Island States(link is external) (4 November 2020, 01.00-03.00 UTC)

Tsunami Ready in Indian Ocean Island States(link is external) (4 November 2020, 14.00-17.30 Jakarta time)

North-Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and Connected Seas(link is external) (4 November 2020, 10.00-13.30 CEST)

Southeast Pacific and Central America(link is external) (10 November 2020, 14.00-16.00 UTC and 19.00-20.00 UTC)

3. Flagship Event: Third World Tsunami Museum Virtual Conference | 5 November 2020, 10.00-11.30 CET

There is limited public information on tsunamis that happened before the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Data, information, records and reports of the events are scattered and difficult to find, and there are limited or no eyewitness stories documented, and certainly no video documentation.

The lack of this information makes it difficult to have local and contextualized information to raise awareness and preparedness of the local people.Museums may have records and documentation that could be used for public awareness purposes.

There is still a significant amount of tsunami information and documentation that we need to preserve in Indonesia (1969 South Sulawesi; 1977, 1979 and 1987 East Nusa Tenggara; and 1965 and 1998 North Moluccas), the Philippines (1968 Luzon Island; 1976 Mindanao; and 1994 Mindoro) and many other countries.

Building on the first and second World Tsunami Museum Conferences held in Japan in 2017 and 2018, UNDRR will organize the Third Tsunami Museum Conference as a virtual event that will combine the needs for scientific expertise and collective (community) memory and knowledge for an effective multi-risk hazard warning system, focusing on the topic: “Preserving Past Tsunami Information for Future Preparedness”.

Programme(link is external)

Register(link is external)

4. World Tsunami Awareness Day: Ready for the Next Wave! | 5 November 2020, 12.00-13.00 CET

This event will aim to highlight the importance of having national and local tsunami plans to better protect communities at risk and encourage more countries to adopt plans; and identify challenges and share lessons learned in reducing tsunami risk and integrating tsunamis into multi-hazard disaster risk reduction strategies.

Register (link is external)

For more information, please visit IOC Tsunami (link is external).  

Message from UNESCO Dieector-General:

As we enter the United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, now more than ever is the time to redouble our efforts and to reaffirm our international solidarity to tackle this problem that is jeopardizing entire societies, particularly in small island developing States.

—  Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Tsunami Awareness Day

Download the full message in PDF:
English | Français | Español | Русский | العربية | 中文

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