in Polynesia is feeling directly concerned about tsunamis as, in the past ten years,
overwater bungalows have been popping up on many lagoons in our islands.
it is still constantly updated upwards, the
death toll of the Tsunami that hit Southeast Asia on December 26, is now over 220,000
unfortunately, these are not the final figures. Thailand and Sri Lanka, which have
been promoting mass tourism in their over water bungalows, have now become aware
of the danger that such policy generates. Everybody in Polynesia has been feeling
directly concerned. (because
of this, the Polynesians' solidarity response was very generous), because
in the past ten years, overwater bungalows have been popping up in many lagoons of
Polynesian Islands are far from being like Sri Lanka or Phuket. The
first reason is that they are 7 to 9,000 km away from the tectonic plates of Japan
on one side and of the California coast on the other side, also
the Pacific area benefits from a very experienced warning sustem based in Hawaii,
as long as this system works without problem. This has been proved with warnings
for the tidal waves that occured in the past ten years, even during the last underwater
quakes in the Pacific, swells
of only 30 to 60 centimeters were observed a few hours later,
namely in the Marquesas or on the East coast of some islands like Tahiti. In other
words, as far as we are concerned, we shouldn't worry beyond the reasonable.
it is better to be safe than sorry, and following the December 26, 2004 disaster
in Asia, Polynesian authorities have decided to complete an in depth review of the
warning systems and eventual evacuation strategies. Most of our islands (except for
the Marquesas) benefit from a coral reef and more natural protection than the shallow
coastlines of Indonesia or Thailand. The
natural protection provided by the reef, would indeed break most of the tidal wave,
leaving only mini waves to wash to the coast,
causing rather limited damage and, most likely, no casualties if the population is
warned ahead of time. But be aware that, namely the Marquesas, but also Tahiti and
Moorea known for their exposure to the swells, could be invaded by water in case
of a major tsunami. Unchecked development has been known to grant building permits
for areas known as being exposed to floods, even if those are fortunately very rare,
and construction over the lagoons is stricly regulated in French Polynesia.
to atolls, like Rangiroa or Manihi, they certainly could be flooded in case of violent
tsunamis, but the
steep slope outside of the reef prevent the formation of damaging breakers,
as happened in Southeast Asia. Also all of the atolls' townhalls have been rebuilt
to anti-cyclone standards after the 1982-83 cyclones, to provide a refuge to the
population (and to vacationing tourists).
a nutshell, the risk of tsunami is lower in Polynesia than in Southeast Asia.
Although, even if fortunately our area doesn't experience cyclones the size of Carribean
are a greater danger, especially under El Nino conditions as happened 7 years ago
in Maupiti, Raiatea and Huanine. We haven't seen anything similar since that time,
but let's remain vigilant!