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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 10, issue 12
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 2659–2675, 2010
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-10-2659-2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Assessment of different dimensions of vulnerability to natural...

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 2659–2675, 2010
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-10-2659-2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  21 Dec 2010

21 Dec 2010

The unperceived risk to Europe's coasts: tsunamis and the vulnerability of Cadiz, Spain

J. Birkmann1, K. v. Teichman1, T. Welle1, M. González2, and M. Olabarrieta2 J. Birkmann et al.
  • 1UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSITY, Institute for Environment and Human Security, Bonn, Germany
  • 2Instituto de Hidráulica Ambiental "IH Cantabria", Universidad de Cantabria, Santander, Spain

Abstract. The development of appropriate risk and vulnerability reduction strategies to cope with tsunami risks is a major challenge for countries, regions, and cities exposed to potential tsunamis. European coastal cities such as Cadiz are exposed to tsunami risks. However, most official risk reduction strategies as well as the local population are not aware of the probability of such a phenomenon and the potential threat that tsunami waves could pose to their littoral. This paper outlines how tsunami risks, and particularly tsunami vulnerability, could be assessed and measured. To achieve this, a vulnerability assessment framework was applied focusing on the city of Cadiz as a case study in order to highlight the practical use and the challenges and gaps such an assessment has to deal with. The findings yield important information that could assist with the systematic improvement of societal response capacities of cities and their inhabitants to potential tsunami risks. Hazard and vulnerability maps were developed, and qualitative data was obtained through, for example, focused group discussions. These maps and surveys are essential for the development of a people-centred early warning and response system. Therefore, in this regard, the Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System in the North Eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and connected seas promoted by the UNESCO-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) should encompass these assessments to ensure that action is particularly intensified and fostered by those potentially exposed. That means that besides the necessary technical infrastructure for tsunami detection, additional response and adaptation measures need to be promoted – particularly those that reduce the vulnerability of people and regions exposed – in terms of national systems. In addition, it is important to develop emergency preparedness and awareness plans in order to create an integrated regional Tsunami Early Warning System (TEWS) by 2011. The findings of the paper are based on research conducted within the framework of the EC funded project TRANSFER: "Tsunami Risk ANd Strategies For the European Region", a project that aims to improve the understanding of tsunami processes in the Euro-Mediterranean region, to develop methods and tools to assess vulnerability and risk, and to identify strategies for the reduction of tsunami risks.

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