Tsunami preparedness lags

To the Editor:

In the wake of all the destruction in Asia from tsunamis, I often wonder how we would fare against such a foe. It seems as though most of our dear Island is at or just above sea level. That means certain disaster for the majority of the Island if a tsunami occurred.

So I ask myself what plans do we have in place to protect our citizens from an unlikely but possible [great wave]. In the Pacific Northwest, everywhere you drive there are signs for a tsunami evacuation. So after driving around here I imagined mass chaos and mass casualties. I mean you can’t even go to the store, much less flee to safety when we are in the thick of tourist season.

So, the biggest threat to our Island may be a hurricane but could also be a tsunami. Geologists have predicted such an event in the Atlantic ocean if a landslide occurred at the island La Palma. Geological evidence suggests that during a future eruption, Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma may experience a catastrophic failure of its west flank, dropping 150 to 500 cubic kilometers of rock into the sea.

If this happened, a tsunami would cover the entire East Coast. It is estimated that the wave could be up to 1,000 meters high, but some estimates predicted a powerful but much smaller wave.

Regardless of its size, the amount of lives lost would depend on our preparedness for such an occurrence. As we stand now, no preparedness leaves us open for the greatest possible amount of lives lost.

So, I propose a simple evaluation and disaster plan for just such an event. Recognizing the signs and moving away from the coast is sometimes a decision that could save your life. I think more needs to be done to educate our public as to where a safe place would be on the Island for each of its towns.

I would say that the hospital would be safe from a small tsunami, but who knows? How high above sea level is the hospital? Knowing elevation is also a good tool to predict how safe an area would be. Let’s hope we never have to worry about this, but how about we get smart and be prepared.

Timothy M MotykaOak Bluffs