Seychelles joined other countries in the Indian Ocean region in September to participate in the Indian Ocean Wave Exercise or IOWAVE14 to coincide with the tenth anniversary since the deadly tsunami struck the province of Banda Aceh in Indonesia on December 26th, 2004.
The decision was taken during the 9th session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, which was held in Jakarta, Indonesia on June 27th 2014.
It required that each member state implement its Tsunami Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
The first day of the exercise on September 9th, which started at 4am and lasted until 7pm, involved a simulation of magnitude 9.1 earthquake south of Java, Indonesia which generated a tsunami travelling across the whole of the Indian Ocean. The first wave was likely to strike south Mahé, with a possibility of bouncing off to west and northwest of Mahé, forcing the closure of all schools from Pointe Larue up to the University of Seychelles as well as Anse Boileau.
After the Regional Tsunami Service Providers informed the National Warning Centre for Tsunami, the Seychelles Meteorological Office then informed DRDM of an earthquake and later confirmed the formation of a tidal wave.
An advisory was issued as a possibility of a tsunami was evaluated. All DRDM staff and emergency liaison officers were called in to activate their emergency procedures and communicate the information to their staff. Contact was made with companies such as the Public Utilities Corporation and the Port Authority to activate their SOP, while the public was put on alert.
The first scenario involved reported incidents of debris on road, with certain roads surfaces sustaining damage, people stuck in their houses had to be evacuated, teachers, students, farmers, hotel workers and guests in the vicinity were moved to higher ground.
The first responders tested equipment and staff with emergency protocols, while the Seychelles Meteorological Services tested the Tsunami SOP and the communication system that has been agreed between DRDM and the Met Office.
A second alert was raised the following day at 10am, this time with a simulated earthquake that occurred in the Makran Trench, south of Iran and Pakistan, threating the coast of Mahe and inner islands.
The Division of Risk and Disaster Management participated with all its partners testing the communication system in place, response strategies and the districts evacuation plans with the Districts Contingency Plans. Anse Boileau district was chosen for a practical evacuation test to see how agencies as well as the public reacted during an evacuation which showed where gaps existed and what needs to be improved on.
Following the tsunami simulation, an evaluation exercise was conducted locally and internationally to assess Seychelles’ and other Indian Ocean countries preparedness if ever they are faced with another tsunami. It was felt that generally, the two day exercise went well.
However, a series of recommendations were made, including that each health centre has its own evacuation plan coordinated with DRDM, further training needed for responders, that church bells and sirens are used to alert people to evacuate in an organised manner, among others.
DRDM pointed out that most of its key partners such as the Red Cross, Fire and Rescue services, etc have a well-designed plan for such scenarios and their staff have received relevant training over the past ten years but admitted that much still needs to be done in order to achieve 100 percent emergency preparedness and management in the country.
Seychelles felt the aftermath of the earthquake which struck the Banda Aceh Province in Indonesia in 2004, followed by a tsunami that reached the coasts of most countries bordering the Indian Ocean, including Seychelles.
3 Seychellois citizens were killed in the tsunami which left many people in anguish for several days as bridges and roads were severely damaged, homes and infrastructures along the coastal areas were flooded and properties such as boats were carried away by the waves.