No warning: tsunami threat a matter of where and when
AUSTRALIA'S east coast would have been obliterated if the tsunami simulated in a massive disaster planning exercise were to be replicated in real life.
Due to major advances in detection and response since the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami killed 240,000 people in 14 countries, early warning systems would have given residents 90 minutes to seek higher ground.
The Sunshine Coast with its population largely situated on low-lying coastal plains would be particularly vulnerable.
Yuelong Miao, the national manager of the Bureau of Meteorology's Tsunami Warning Services, said a Pacific tsunami scenario like that played out yesterday would be a rare but plausible event.
Under the scenario low-lying coastal areas along the Australian east coast would have been annihilated.
The exercise came as University of the Sunshine Coast scientists warned that the impact of climate change enhanced weather events coupled with sea level rise would ultimately force retreat from vulnerable low-lying areas.
The scientists have called for planning to assume a long-term focus in the order of 30 to 50 years to avoid massive future cost and disruption.
Yesterday's Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre exercise simulated a tsunami impacting much of Australia's east coast following a very strong earthquake south of the Solomon Islands.
Dr Miao said Australia's east coast was ringed by a series of fault lines and sat on the edge of the Pacific Rim of Fire.
Rather than being a matter of "if" Mr Miao said it was more a matter of "when" and "where".
The PacWave18 exercise involved a number of federal and state agencies as well as 46 Pacific countries.
The warning centre could react within 30 minutes of an earthquake happening, giving at least 90 minutes of response time.
Residents would be advised via the web, twitter, email, and land line and mobile emergency alerts.
The National Earthquake Alerts Centre, operated by Geoscience Australia, monitors earthquakes globally and alerts the JATWC of earthquakes that could generate a tsunami.
"Unfortunately, we can't prevent tsunamis from occurring, but the expertise we provide gives our emergency services the best head start to protect lives and property," Dr Miao said.
"Every second counts in responding to a tsunami, which is why we've deployed state of the art detection systems in the Indian and Pacific oceans and have a team of experts operating around the clock.
"We regularly run exercises with simulated tsunamis to ensure we and emergency services are well prepared in the event of an actual tsunami."