Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Mexican Scientists Urge Government to Develop More Efficient System to Monitor Tsunamis, Alert Vulnerable Communities

Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Mexican Scientists Urge Government to Develop More Efficient System to Monitor Tsunamis, Alert Vulnerable Communities

Article excerpt

Mexican scientists are urging the government to create a more accurate system to monitor tsunamis and alert communities along the Pacific Coast whenever danger exists.

The concerns were raised in the wake of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, 2004, that killed at least 200,000 people in nine countries in Asia and two in Africa.

The impact of the Asian tsunami, which was caused by an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia, was felt as far away as Colima and Baja California Sur in Mexico, where a slight increase in water levels was noted.

The Mexican government has responded to the disaster in Asia by sending 300 metric tons of food, medication, clothing, and other supplies to the region.

In addition, Mexico has dispatched hundreds of specialists to help with recovery and relief efforts, including a team of epidemiologists and other specialists and a group of technicians from the Comision Nacional del Agua (CNA) to help with to water-purification efforts.

Mexico's southern Pacific Coast considered vulnerable

Scientists at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), the Centro de Investigacion Cientifica y de Educacion Superior de Ensenada in Baja California state (CICESE), and the Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED) are concerned that seismic activity off the Mexican Pacific Coast could unleash a tsunami similar to the one in the Indian Ocean.

The area off the Mexican Pacific Coast from Chiapas to Jalisco is especially susceptible to earthquakes because of geologic features in the area, researchers said. "The MesoAmerican Trench, formed by the Cocos and the Caribbean Faults, is only 80 km off the coast and a potential source of tsunamis," said Osvaldo Sanchez, director of UNAM's Servicio Mareografico Nacional.

CICESE said Mexico has experienced 30 tsunamis in the southern Pacific coastal region since 1732, 18 of which caused significant damage. The most recent disaster occurred in June 1932 off the coast of Colima, where a giant wave swept the resort community of Coyutlan. The resort was a frequent vacation destination for Mexican presidents and their families. "This was a very important vacation spot," said historian Rafael Tortajada in an interview with the Mexico City daily newspaper La Cronica de Hoy.

Unlike the recent tsunami in Asia, the disaster in Colima was localized in Coyutlan and some nearby areas. The devastation, however, was large enough to cause numerous deaths. "Because of the time period, we lacked the instruments to count the number of deceased," said Tortajada.

Tortajada noted that the earthquake that caused the tsunami was one of three tremors felt in the state in June 1932. Two others were centered inland, causing very little water displacement but damaging land structures. …

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