Saipan's barrier reefs cannot stop a tsunami from hitting the island, according to Brian Yanagi, deputy director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's International Tsunami Center in Hawaii.
In an interview yesterday, Yanagi said the myth about barrier reefs stopping a tsunami in its tracks is one he wants to dispel.
“Your barrier reefs can mitigate some of the energy but [they] will not stop a tsunami,” he said.
Yanagi is one of four lecturers in the two-day CNMI Tsunami Awareness Course initiated by the Emergency Management Office that kicked off yesterday at Kanoa Resort Saipan's Seaside Hall.
The other lecturers are NOAA National Weather Service in Guam meteorologist in-charge Genevieve Miller, Hawaii State Civil Defense's earthquake/tsunami program planner Kevin Richards, and Hawaii State Civil Defense natural hazards planner Danny Tengan.
Yanagi said this workshop is for the private sector, police, fire, Emergency Management Office, and first responders to become fully aware of the potential impacts from a Marianas Trench earthquake and tsunami, which could strike Saipan in 10 to 20 minutes.
“If you feel the ground shake strongly and it's difficult to stand up and you are along a coastline, you need to head immediately to higher ground or climb a reinforced concrete structure, get up to the roof, because a tsunami can come within minutes after the ground shaking,” he said.
Yanagi said people should not wait to be told what to do and instead save themselves.
He said people should work as a team with government agencies to effectively respond to not only a local tsunami but one that comes from Japan, the Philippines, and even Alaska and Chile.
Yanagi said the CNMI and Guam have a history of tsunami that goes back to 1700, in which some of them were destructive and others were small.
Miller, who discussed tsunami hazards assessment and warnings, said that people need to be educated on how to recognize the warning signs that a tsunami might be occurring. People should understand where the official sources of information are coming from and how to react to it, she added.
The workshop is funded by the National Tsunami Hazardous Mitigation Program.
EMO director Jack Omar said the two-day workshop is focused on the private sector since a lot of government agencies have already participated in this type of training in the past. “We want to prepare for the destructive tsunamis,” he said.