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Jan 11, 2018

How to Prepare For and Survive a Tsunami

Still a little shaky from Tuesday night’s earthquake and tsunami scare? You’re not alone. Nearly forty-eight hours later, emergency preparedness responders are still marveling at Belize’s close call and formulating plans and ideals for the next time. Belize is located not far from the Swan Islands transform fault which produced another knee-buckler in 2009. That earthquake caused multiple deaths in Honduras and damage to buildings in Placencia and Monkey River. And the examples of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which wiped out close to a quarter-million persons, and the 2011 Japan tsunami, which killed more than fifteen thousand, are not far from the mind. But as News Five’s Aaron Humes stresses in the following report, being prepared is being safe.


Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro, NEMO Minister

“This is something that can be very devastating. Looking from what we have seen from tsunami experience from around the world, no second story building will be able to hold you if it it’s that bad, bringing ten, twenty, thirty feet of water. There is no way any of us in the Caribbean and this region will be able to have a building that might stand up to that kind of disaster.”


Aaron Humes, Reporting

And that is why you can leave nothing to chance. As Tuesday night’s events proved, this type of temblor can hit at any time, and the tsunami which follows can be deadly. The key, says Director General of the Belize Red Cross Lily Bowman, is safety first, and that means seeking higher ground and being ready to go at a moment’s notice.


Lily Bowman

Lily Bowman, Director General, Belize Red Cross

“Move away from water to higher ground; move quickly away from the coast or tributaries to higher ground, avoiding buildings, bridges, [downed] lines but at the same time, look for higher floors and stronger buildings. Do not return to the shore as waves may continue to arrive for hours. Stay informed and listen to official tsunami alerts – which I think a lot of people were doing – be prepared to evacuate. The earthquake could cause a tsunami very soon afterwards or some hours later. If there is a tsunami watch stay informed by radio; if a tsunami warning is issued, be ready to evacuate. You should have your grab and go bag prepared anyway, because that’s what we tell people – to be prepared for any disaster, have a grab-and-go bag; every now and then, revisit the bag, empty whatever you think is no longer applicable for you to take. But you’re looking at clothing, definitely; you’re looking at your personal and important papers: passport, land papers, whatever you deem very important. You’re also thinking about supplies for a baby – milk, etcetera; and things like that. Some food, but nothing that will burden you, especially like in this last case – nothing that will burden you or hinder you from moving and evacuating fast enough.”


Belize City Councilor Philip Willoughby, a veteran of emergency management during his time at City Hall, was out during the emergency. He underscored the fact that with so much at stake, a moment’s delay can cost you your life, so establish priorities in advance.


Philip Willoughby

Philip Willoughby, CEMO

“Let’s say for example: I’m a single parent and I have three, four children. I have to pack up three, four kids, pack up myself, and hit the road and I’m behind Jane Usher Boulevard. And I have to leave from behind Jane Usher Boulevard to get to the Muslim School which is the nearest structure or to St. John’s Vianney. Look at the timeframe I have: how long does it take to get out from behind Jane Usher Boulevard and with three or four kids? I have to be real with what I’m saying to you, understand; unless every night before you go to sleep you are prepared that there is the possible threat of an earthquake, you understand? So I would just say, valuable documents; your medication. If you have liquid cash on you, I wouldn’t even advise [taking] that because you wouldn’t want nobody take advantage of you, jewelry and thing. Those are material things. Yes, you can put them up and store them in a safe place. But get yourself together and get to the shelter, quickly.”


Compared to neighbors like Mexico and Guatemala which have seen multiple earthquakes including two just last year, Minister Castro admits we need to have plans in place for when the unthinkable happens.


Edmond Castro

“What we need to do is to get more information. Educate ourselves and educate our population on the things to do when there is a tsunami watch. I would like for people to understand that disaster from a tsunami is different than that of a hurricane. We can track a hurricane coming for days. For weeks we could watch that weather developing; but an earthquake – there is no method in place in the world that can determine when an earthquake will strike.”


Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.


For more information on earthquake and tsunami preparedness, download the free Belize Red Cross Multi-Hazard App from Google Play or the Apple Store.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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