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Scientists start year-long tsunami project in Samoa - 11/02/2011

Scientists from New Zealand have started a year-long project to develop tsunami evacuation maps for Samoa.

The project is funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme, and is being undertaken by tsunami and social science specialists at GNS Science. Four of the team set off for Samoa this week in the first of several visits during the project.

Group leader, Nora Gale, said the project is in partnership with the Samoan Disaster Management Office which has been working with coastal communities to increase tsunami preparedness for several years.

Tsunami team

GNS Science tsunami and social science specialists involved in the year-long tsunami project in Samoa. From left Graham Leonard, Nora Gale, William Power, Xiaoming Wang, Michele Daly, and Kim Wright. Photo: Margaret Low, GNS Science

The project team will use ‘best practise’ methods currently being used in New Zealand to develop tsunami evacuation maps. They plan to consult local communities during the project to ensure the information they produce is appropriately targeted.

One of the first tasks will be to model potential local, regional and distant tsunami sources that pose a risk to Samoa. In addition, scientists at GNS Science will develop inundation models identifying coastal areas most vulnerable to moderate to large tsunamis.

From this they will produce a tsunami evacuation zone map for the whole of Samoa.

In consultation with local authorities, they will select four at-risk villages where they will produce more detailed maps showing safe places and evacuation routes.

New Zealand and Samoan government agencies have been working together to increase the effort spent in tsunami research and preparedness following the devastating tsunami of September 2009.

“The long term intention is to develop a Pacific-wide approach to tsunami inundation mapping and evacuation planning based on the experience gained from this first project in Samoa,” Ms Gale said.

By the end of the project, the group will have worked with locals to erect signage and prepared simulation exercises for communities to practise evacuation drills.

GNS Science is one of the few organisations in the world with the in-house capacity to undertake comprehensive tsunami work. This covers source modelling, wave generation and travel, inundation modelling, evacuation planning and maps, signage, and community education.

The team is maintaining a blog about the project at this link: