Thursday, October 8, 2009

Earthquake and Tsunami in Vanuatu

October 9, 2009--Well, it has happened again! Another severe earthquake, this one measuring 7.8 on Richter Scale hit to the northwest of Espirito Santos in Vanuatu yesterday morning at a little after 1100 local Fiji time. We were first alerted to the Tsunami at 1115 by a police officer walking around the marina warning people of the event and telling us that we should seek higher ground. Soon thereafter the marina manager passed through telling us that we should stay on the boat to adjust lines if necessary. The majority of yachties took off for higher ground, but a number of us chose to stay on our boats using the logic that boats float.

We tuned into both the VHF radio and the high frequency radio to get any information we could. On the radios we learned that we should expect the first waves around 1150 and that the danger would not pass until 2 hours later. We slacked off our lines and moved LINDA further from the dock, shut all the hatches and portlights, put on our harnesses/PFDs (personal flotation device) and tethers, and sat to await whatever was on its way. I have to say that it was a strange feeling sitting on the boat waiting for something to happen and not knowing if that something was going to be bad or not! At 1145 a call on the radio from civil authorities said a one-meter surge was expected and that the threat was increased from moderate to high. We continued to sit but nothing ever happened. Around 1300 the authorities canceled the threat, and the masses descended from the hills, local businesses reopened, and life returned to normal. For all of that we are grateful!

We know that non-US news in the US usually consists of a couple of sound bites of coverage, but here in the Pacific these geologic phenomena have been the major news stories lately. There have been 3 major earthquakes in our general area within the past 10 days, all near 8.0! The first near Samoa/Northern Tonga, the next near Sumatra in Indonesia, and now this one in Vanuatu. We do not know yet of damage and casualties in Vanuatu, but the first two quakes/Tsunamis did major damage and killed several thousand people. We have to compliment the US and Pacific Island governments on their rapid and efficient communication and emergency management. Within 15 minutes of the earthquake, almost everyone had been advised, police were blocking roads, information was provided on all radios, and order was maintained.

Now we continue with getting the boat ready to be hauled out.

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