SAN JUAN -- The 8th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, which opened April 24 at the Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino in San Juan for 170 delegates from throughout the Caribbean, began with a special focus on disaster management and prevention.

Although the Caribbean is highly vulnerable to tsunamis, the region has begun working on a tsunami readiness plan, according to Christa von Hillenbrandt-Andrade, director of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

She pointed out that the word tsunami does create waves of panic within the tourism industry, much more so since the tsunami in southeast Asia in December 2004. We have been working for years toward the development of a tsunami plan in the Caribbean. We can no longer ignore this potential danger.

Plans are slowly taking shape to set up centers on each island where tsunami warnings could be issued to residents and visitors.

In Mayaguez, the Caribbeans first Tsunami Warning System will go into effect next month, thanks to a $100,000 funding commitment from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, we estimate that it will take $41 million to fund the Tsunami-Ready program for the entire Caribbean region, Hillebrandt-Andrade said.

Other conference highlights included workshops on national approaches to risk management, sustainable tourism policies and case studies on recovery planning, as well as study tours to El Yunque Rainforest, Old San Juan and the Humacao Nature Preserve. 

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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