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PRESS RELEASE

Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department Launches 24/7 Disaster National Warning Centre

November 20, 2013

PORT VILA, Vanuatu, November 21, 2013 – The Vanuatu National Warning Centre was  officially opened today in Port Vila, to help the Pacific Islands nations assess the threats posed by natural hazards like volcanoes, cyclones and tsunamis. The official opening was attended by H.E. Moana Carcasses Kalosil, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Franz Drees-Gross, Country Director for the World Bank in Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands, and Tsutomu Moriya, Resident Representative of JICA Vanuatu.

Featuring state of the art equipment, the centre will form an integral part of Vanuatu’s fight against the elements and paves the way for sharing critical early warning information regionally. Running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the National Warning Centre will house meteorological and geohazards scientists who will monitor and analyse information on volcanic and seismic activity, extreme weather events and tsunamis.

“The government is committed to saving lives and mitigating the risks Vanuatu faces from natural disasters,” said Moana Carcasses Kalosil, Prime Minister of Vanuatu. “This warning centre will help us analyse all available scientific data around the clock, in real-time, and to be as prepared as possible when disaster strikes. This is a critical step in building resilience and reducing the human and economic impact of natural disasters.”

“Being prepared in the face of a disaster saves lives,” said Franz Drees-Gross, Country Director for the World Bank in the Pacific Islands. “The World Bank is proud to be a partner with Vanuatu in strengthening its national response systems by developing this early warning capability.

The Pacific Island nation is the sixth most vulnerable nation in the world to natural hazards, including cyclones and earthquakes, with an average of 7 percent of GDP lost every year due to the impacts of these disasters.

The National Warning Centre has been created under the Vanuatu national action plan for disaster risk management. It provides faster and more accurate assessments of possible threats and the data collected can also be shared regionally and with neighbouring countries. It was set up as a part of the World Bank’s  ‘Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction’ (MDRR) project in Vanuatu, which is funded by the Government of Japan through the Policy and Human Development Trust Fund (PHRD) in the amount of US$2.7 million.

“Japan experienced a catastrophe called ‘the Great East Japan Earthquake’ in March 2011. Based upon this experience, Japan recognized the importance of having a warning system to evacuate people from natural disasters effectively,’’ said Tsutomu Moriya, JICA Vanuatu. “The Japanese Government has decided to support countries vulnerable to natural disasters by starting two projects, ‘Disaster Risk Reduction’ and ‘Disaster Risk Management,’ in Vanuatu.”

The MDRR has refurbished the building housing the warning centre and purchased the software and IT equipment. The project is also working on the design of a Tsunami warning system that will be installed in Port Vila and Luganville

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