Using text messages instead of social networks to warn citizens about the earthquake in Chile would have saved lives, a disaster management expert has said.
Although the Pacific Tsunami Warning System have detected the 8.2 Richter-scale earth quake before it affected land and sent the alert to national authorities as designed, communicating the message on local level was chaotic and caused panic.
Internet and Twitter in particular were largely used by Chilean authorities to warn citizens, meaning the warning did not reach all affected regions in time.
“We must learn from this experience and adopt simple, affordable and reliable systems based around SMS text-messaging,” said Sophia Salenius, CEO of RegPoint and a global expert in disaster management who helped the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services develop tsunami warning system, due to launch on 1 May 2014.
“Text messaging is a reliable and widely available means of communication, even in the developing world. Everyone has a basic mobile phone that can receive texts and they can all receive information quickly from a credible and advanced tsunami detection centre if the right system is in place,” Salenius said.
According to latest information, the 8.2 magnitude earthquake with an epicentre about 86km north-west of Iquique in northern Chile, triggered a 2-metre high tsunami and killed at least five people.
A tsunami warning has been issued for Chile, Peru and Ecuador and a tsunami watch has been put in place for Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.
The affected region is part of a highly active tectonic zone frequently hit by major earth quakes.
“The 1 April 2014 magnitude 8.2 earthquake in northern Chile (Iquique) occurred on the Nazca-South American plate boundary, which is one of the most seismically-active areas worldwide. As a result Chile experiences one great megathrust earthquake every 100-200 years in any segment of the subduction zone,” explained Catherine Chagué-Goff from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales and the Institute for Environmental Research at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
“Many of these large earthquakes have also generated tsunamis, which affected not only South America, but also regions around the Pacific,” she said.