Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
October 25, 2007
A grant of US $296,000 from the United States Government will be used to upgrade equipment at the Seismic Research Unit at Bayfords.
The research unit is part of a regional network set up to monitor geological activity and provides early warnings for developing natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Network monitoring was instituted decades ago. Research fellow, Lloyd Lynch told SKNIS that a more efficient design was conceived by the U.S. Government after the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
He said that the United States has committed US $20 million to extend its Global Seismic Network (GSN) worldwide. This included the Caribbean and emphasis was placed on monitoring for tsunami warning signs.
Mr. Lynch stated that the formation of tsunamis in the region has happened before and remains a real possibility. A particularly devastating one occurred in 1946. It struck the Dominican Republic and claimed more than 1,700 hundred lives. Mr. Lynch revealed that large tsunamis had also impacted Puerto Rico in 1918 and St. Kitts and Nevis in 1690. In all there have been more than 10 large tsunamis in the region over the past 500 years. That is particularly troubling for the region when considering the large population that lives close to the coasts.
The research fellow said that the grant funds have been used to purchase additional sensors that can withstand earthquakes above 5.2 magnitudes. Also, the information relay system has been changed from using telephone lines to a more reliable and faster satellite-based system that can send information in real time.
The Seismic Research Unit falls under the purview of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). An agency official said that the local government is very supportive of this monitoring project which adds another safety net to save lives in the event of a geological disaster.