The Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWMS) was established by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO in response to the tragic Boxing Day tsunami of 26 December 2004 that led to 230,000 deaths in several countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The IOTWMS became operational in 2013 with Tsunami Service Providers established by Australia, India and Indonesia starting to provide tsunami services to 28 Member States in the region.
The Makran Subduction Zone (MSZ) off the coast of Iran and Pakistan is still poorly understood. Several decades after the 1945 tsunami caused hundreds of confirmed fatalities in the North West Indian Ocean (NWIO) region, there are still open questions about whether the Makran Subduction Zone is able to generate such large tsunamis in the future. In the worst case, tsunami waves generated by a Makran source could reach shores of India, Iran, Pakistan, Oman and other adjoining countries within a few tens of minutes with height of several metres, posing enormous challenges to existing tsunami warning systems.
To address these gaps, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO is implementing a multi-national project aimed at “Strengthening tsunami early warning in the North West Indian Ocean region through regional cooperation”. Funded by the United Nations ESCAP Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness, the project will enable better understanding of Makran tsunami hazard and enhance preparedness of countries in the region to respond to a near-field tsunami threat. The project was launched during two back to back meetings hosted in Muscat by the Oman Directorate General of Meteorology.
The first meeting (01-02 September 2019) was a high-level conference on tsunamis in the Makran region that reflected on national strategies for tsunami early warning and community preparedness in the context of near-field tsunamis. The second meeting (03-06 September 2019) was an Expert Meeting that resulted in formulating a strategy for regional cooperation to develop a regional tsunami hazard map for Makran region.
Participants at these events included representatives of tsunami warning centres, disaster management agencies, seismologists and tsunami modellers from India, Iran, Pakistan, Oman and United Arab Emirates, and experts from Australia, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, USA and UN agencies.
The participants agreed on the immediate need to strengthen national coordination mechanisms for tsunami early warning; revise early warning chains and standard operating procedures of National Tsunami Warning Centres, Disaster Management Offices and Media; and develop a regional seismicity model and probabilistic tsunami hazard assessment for the Makran region. A time-bound plan to implement these activities through a series of national and regional workshops and expert consultations to be held in India, Iran, Pakistan and Oman has also been finalised. Exercise Indian Ocean Wave 2020 (IOWave20) scheduled during September/October 2020 will be used as an opportunity to test these project interventions.