Damaged tsunami warning system remains unrepaired after a year
posted 18-Sep-2016  ·  
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Almost a year after being damaged by an errant cargo ship, the Community Tsunami Detection and
Warning System installed in April 2015 by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has remained inutile and neglected.

According to officials of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) at Virac port where the facility was established, nobody from PHIVOLCS has visited to examine the damage to the metal arm that contains the sensor which measures the rise and fall in sea elevation.

An abnormal fall or rise in sea level indicates a very high probability of tsunami occurrence, with the data sent to the nearby solar-powered communications facility that relays the information to the PHIVOLCS central office for analysis.

Inspection of the metal arm shows that the impact of the collision made by the cargo ship MV Jasper Peter of the Eastern Island Shipping Lines bent the arm to the right by about 70 degrees. One of the vital components of the sensor was knocked loose and fell to the sea, it was claimed.

The former port manager in Virac sent a report of the incident to the PPA regional office immediately after the mishap but it appears that PHIVOLCS is unaware of the damage to its facility. A crew of the cargo ship was steering the ship on behalf of the captain who was on leave when part of the ship collided with the tsunami warning system’s metal arm. The responsible crew member blamed engine failure for the botched maneuver, which PPA security claimed also occurred at a time when the waves were rough.

Installed by experts from PHIVOLCS and the Advanced Science and Technology Institute, both of the DOST, the facility is a grant-in-aid project of the DOST titled “Establishment of a Cost-Effective Local Tsunami Early Warning System for Selected High-Risk Coastal Communities of the Philippines” aimed at putting technology in place to provide a cost-efficient yet reliable system device for tsunami forecast and allow timely disaster response.

This technology is basically made up of a platform with a 15-meter high pole where two types of sensors — the ASTI-designed ultrasonic tide gauge sensor that notes the rise and fall of the sea level and the PHIVOLCS-designed wet and dry sensors that detects post-earthquake receding water which may signal an impending tsunami, are attached.

Information generated by the system reaches the local government unit (LGU) in near real-time so that in cases when an earthquake is strong enough to cause a tsunami, it can sound the warning siren to warn those living in coastal areas and give them enough time to prepare and seek refuge in higher grounds.

The Virac facility is among the unmanned facilities of the PHIVOLCS — made possible through the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and implemented since 2012 under the National Tsunami Monitoring Project. JICA provided Php430 million to the Philippines for the project that also includes similar facilities established in Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro; Baler, Aurora and over a dozen more areas across the country.

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