Minister clarifies Fiji’s tsunami system

The current tsunami warning system in Fiji is only geared towards monitoring earthquakes says Minister for Mineral Resources, Jone Usamate.

He said that is the reason the tsunami warning was late on 15 January following the volcanic eruption in Tonga.

Usamate reassured that the Seismology Unit in the country monitors the likelihood of tsunamis every 24 hours.

He added that this month alone 70 earthquake activity was picked up by the unit, with 13 of those occurring locally.

“So because the whole system was oriented towards earthquakes when they had this volcanic activity that might lead to tsunami, they did not have the parameters to measure that this volcano leads to tsunami.”

Usamate said Fiji is sandwiched between two countries where volcanic activity occurs more frequently, but this is the first time that we experienced the likelihood of a tsunami because of it.

“The vast majority of tsunami that we have come out of earthquakes. This one that we have come out of a volcano and you know in Fiji, we have Vanuatu to our West and Tonga to our East and we’re in the middle and both of these two countries have a lot of volcanic activities.”

A tsunami resulting from volcanic activity is rare, but Usamate said there have been discussions at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to re-look at the way they give advisories and consider parameters that arise from volcanoes.