The first tsunami exercise in the Caribbean takes place today in 33 countries to test the region's preparedness after Japan's recent devastation.

Although the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's two tsunami warning centers are near Pacific coastlines in Palmer, Alaska, and Ewa Beach, Hawaii, the two are responsible for tracking tsunamis around the world.

The exercise is called Caribbean Wave 11 and will test the warning systems and responses of emergency management agencies in the region.

Caribbean countries will receive tsunami alerts resulting from a fictitious 7.6 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami on a fault that lies between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The two warning centers will trigger the exercise by issuing warnings and bulletins for the 33 Caribbean countries participating in the exercise.

The warning system for the Caribbean was set up in 2005 in collaboration with Unesco's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Committee.

"The earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan have shown how essential alert systems are," said Irini Bokova, Unesco's director general.

Today's simulated tsunami is based on a real event that took place in 1867, when a 7.3 magnitude earthquake generated a powerful tsunami that crashed ashore on Guadeloupe and St. Croix.

Over the last 500 years, 75 tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean, killing more than 3,500 people, according to Unesco.


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