With a Caribe Wave drill slated for tomorrow, the entire community should recommit to preparing for earthquakes and tsunamis.
In recent decades, the Virgin Islands has been spared these disasters, but considering its proximity to a major fault system, both are a very real threat here.
To understand the implications, one need only remember the 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti in 2010 — or the less devasting ones that killed thousands more Haitians last year.
Even closer to home, Puerto Rico saw serious damage from a series of quakes in 2019 and 2020.
Tsunamis are also a deadly related threat. Though no major wave has hit here in recent memory, archaeologists have found evidence of devastating tsunamis sweeping over these islands in past centuries.
Looking abroad shows the potential for devastation. The 2004 Boxing Day earthquake in the Indian Ocean created a series of giant waves that killed some 230,000 people across Southeast Asia. Tragically, many of them died because they didn’t understand the warning signs and weren’t prepared to take evasive action.
Another wake-up call came in 2011, when a 45-foot-high wave crashed into Fukushima, Japan, killing about 20,000 people and causing a nuclear accident at a power plant.
Spurred by such disasters, coastal countries around the world have doubled down on awareness efforts in recent years to help minimise the likelihood of such a tragedy happening again.
The regional Caribe Wave exercises, which launched in 2011, are part of that effort. Each year in March, countries across the Caribbean take part in a drill simulating an earthquake and tsunami.
Kudos to the Department of Disaster Management for participating in these exercises from the start and urging the rest of the community to do the same.
DDM has also taken other proactive steps, including educating the public and posting tsunami evacuation signs across the territory. Other DDM campaigns have focused on teaching residents how to safely shelter in the event of an earthquake.
But DDM can only do so much, and we are glad that many businesses have come on board as well by implementing evacuation plans and taking part in Caribe Wave and other drills. They should keep it up, and many more companies, non-profits and other organisations should participate as well.
Ultimately, all residents must educate themselves about the potential dangers and prepare for the worst. The threat posed by earthquakes and tsunamis is not going away.