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Brussels, 17 May 2011

Tsunami and earthquake research: meeting in Brussels on 20 May to learn lessons and boost cooperation

An EU-funded research project called SAFER has developed a groundbreaking earthquake early-warning system based on low-cost sensor technology used in car air-bags. Another, DEWS, has paved the way for a new warning system which has reduced by two-thirds the time needed to detect a seismic event that could trigger a tsunami in the Indian Ocean region, so badly hit in 2004. DEWS has also developed a text message alert system to maximise time for people to escape. Leaders of these and five other innovative EU-funded projects aiming to save lives when earthquakes and tsunamis strike will take part on 20 May in Brussels in a European Commission workshop on "Tsunami risk in Europe – Research Achievements and Future Perspectives". The Commission's Joint Research Centre will be a key participant, given its work coordinating the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS). The Emergency Response Service currently in preparation under EU's Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme will also be represented. Among the key questions addressed will be: what lessons can be learnt from the recent Japanese disaster, with a presentation by Masahiro Yamamoto of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission; how serious are the risks in Europe and what can be done to mitigate these; what are the future challenges for earthquake/tsunami science; and in which specific areas is more research needed? For a full list of the projects involved and of all participating institutions, please see MEMO/11/304

"EU research on earthquakes and tsunamis has already scored major successes in finding innovative ways to improve risk assessment and early warning systems. The tragic events in Japan, and recently in Spain, highlight the need to see how we can do even more to improve our capacity to anticipate and cope with these natural killers to minimise loss of human life and property", said Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science.

The workshop will give scientists an opportunity to exchange views on the main research findings and identify areas where more research is needed.

Six recently completed EU funded projects (€16.25 million) will present their work in areas such as: risk assessment; new early warning systems; and rapid response protocols.

The SAFER project is a good example testing , in an urban area, a dense interconnection of some hundred sensors all communicating with each other in fractions of seconds, predicting the size, location and damage potential of an earthquake and sending out signals to alert the population. The future goal is to increase this interconnection to include thousands of sensors, including through REAKT, the "successor" project to SAFER which is currently under negotiation and which, like SAFER, is expected to involve Japanese and other international partners (see MEMO/11/304).

Offshore earthquakes triggering a tsunami of the scale experienced by Japan are unlikely to happen in Europe. Nonetheless, the short distances to the coasts require a rapid early-warning system to alert and evacuate the population. For this reasons one of the key future objectives in EU-funded research will be to reduce the vulnerability of coastal populations.

EU support for research on earthquake and tsunami risk can be traced back to the late 1980s, but it is with the Sixth Research Framework Programme (2002-2007) that a major step forward was taken in terms of developing new and quicker early warning mechanisms and defining better hazard or risk maps.

Practical information

The workshop is open to the media but spaces are limited. It will take place at:

European Commission, Building CDMA, Rue du Champ de Mars 21, 1050 Brussels, Room 2 (Floor -1)

For additional information on the event and registration please contact:

Denis Peter, Research Programme Officer, Natural Hazards

Tel.: +32 (0)2 2958446

Direct contacts with the project leaders can also be arranged for interested journalists.

For the agenda:

For links to the websites of individual projects, see MEMO/11/304

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