Thursday, April 23, 2015

DOST installs 2nd tsunami warning system in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 22 (PNA) – There are now two tsunami warning systems installed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Bicol’s strategic locations—the first one in Rapu-Rapu, Albay, and the latest in Virac, Catanduanes.

The Rapu-Rapu Tsunami Early Warning System (TEWS) located at the wharf of Barangay Malobago was put in place in October 2012 while the one at the port of Virac was on its finishing touches as of last week, DOST Regional Director Tomas Briñas on Tuesday here said.

Rapu-Rapu, an island-town located at the mouth of Albay Gulf and neighboring the Philippine Trench, was selected for the project, given its susceptible geographical location while Virac, the capital town of the island province of Catanduanes, is near an open ocean where the destructive sea waves originate.

Called the Community Tsunami Detection and Warning System, the locally-developed equipment was installed in Rapu-Rapu by experts from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and Advance Science and Technology Institute, both of the DOST.

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,” the technology was put in place to provide a cost-efficient yet reliable system device for tsunami forecast and allow timely disaster response.

The system includes a tsunami-detection facility covering the Albay Gulf and five pilot alerting sirens located in the barangays of Puro, Rawis, San Roque, and Bonot -- all in this city -- and one in barangay Poblacion, Rapu-Rapu that is located some 40 kilometers from here.

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, according to Briñas, 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, he said provided some about ¥1 billion or around 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 coming up across the country.

The Virac facility is made up of a tsunami-sensing device equipped with a sensor that monitors and measures the rise and fall in sea elevation, particularly an abnormal fall or rise in sea levels which indicates a very high probability of a tsunami occurrence, Briñas said.

The device, powered by solar panels, works to send data to the nearby communications facility that relays the data to the Phivolcs central office for analysis and prompt issuance of advisory—when needed-- to the local disaster management office.

These facilities in Rapu-Rapu and Virac, according to Briñas, are specially helpful in any event of a locally-generated tsunami that may only give around 20 minutes for the affected population to escape to higher grounds.

International tsunamis heading the country give more time to prepare considering the distance, he added. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/EB