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VIRGIN ISLANDS UNDER NO APPARENT THREAT FROM POTENTIAL GUADELOUPE TSUNAMI

An article published in the recent EOS Journal  by UK scientists stated that “the volcano Morne aux Diables on Dominica’s northern coast displays evidence of slope instability.” The EOS Journal article also stated that if Morne aux Diables were to collapse, “it would result in 1-3 million tons of rock crashing into the sea with the potential of generating a 10-foot tsunami wave lightly to impact the island of Guadeloupe”.  

A team of geologists investigating the volcano on Dominica, led by Dr. Richard Teeuw of the University of Portsmouth, indicated that it is only a matter of time before this landslide/tsunami event occurs.  The event, which Dr. Teeuw says, will lightly be “triggered by an earthquake” can have grave impacts on Guadeloupe; however, its impact for other Caribbean islands was not discussed by Dr. Teeuw.  

The Department of Disaster Management (DDM) contacted Mrs. Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, the Director of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN), to determine the potential tsunami threat from such an event, specifically for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands locations.  In response to the article written in the EOS Journal, Von Hillebrandt-Andrade confirms that “There exist the possibility of a landslide occurring in Dominica which could generate a tsunami that could affect that area of the Caribbean, specifically Dominica and Guadeloupe”.  Von Hillebrandt-Andrade went on to state however, that “There is no evidence that such a landslide is imminent, also if it did occur, the tsunami does not represent any threat to the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico”.  

Von Hillebrandt-Andrade further informed us that “Tsunamis generated by subareal landslides can be large near the source but decrease in size quickly.  Therefore no Tsunami Warning or alert has been issued by the PRSN or any other tsunami monitoring institution.”

The Director of Disaster Management, Ms. Sharleen DaBreo, reminds the public that “the Territory lies in a seismically active zone, and the threat of an earthquake or tsunami is possible for the Virgin Islands.  While we cannot predict when and where the next major earthquake will occur, we can reduce the risk of serious impacts and losses by adhering to the Building Codes and being informed and aware of what to do and how to respond to the various hazards that the Virgin Islands are prone to. ” DaBreo went on to encourage schools and businesses to develop Disaster Plans and test these plans so that students and employees are aware of how they should respond to these hazards.

The Virgin Islands is equipped with a National [outdoor] Siren System which alerts the Territory of impending danger.  It is important that residents tune in immediately to local radio and television stations when the National Siren System is activated so that they can receive proper information about the hazard. This system is tested every month to ensure that it is in working order.  The next scheduled test of the National Siren System is April 24, 2009 at 2:00pm.

General information and preparedness tips for tsunamis and other hazards can be found on the DDM’s website www.bviddm.com .

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