TSUNAMI, Puerto Armuelles Prepares.

David Dell

By David Dell

Table of Contents

The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of Unesco (IOC), together with the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP), plan to certify the western port City of Puerto Armuelles, Panama as the first Panamanian city to be “Tsunami Prepared.”

On Friday 18th of October, at 8:00 in the morning the first simulation took part. The ideas was to get the population of the low lying communities to evacuate to higher ground (20 meters high or more)


Just days after we posted this article an earthquake has struck off the Punta Burrica coast. Further highlighting why we urgently need SIRENS to warn the people. Our feeling at yourpanama.com is that the greatest danger we face will be from a LOCALLY GENERATED earthquake and TSUNAMI.

Earthquake map

Crowd moving through town

Crowd moving through town

As I drove through the community of El Palmar about 300 men, women and children were walking along the road heading for the pre-arranged meeting place at the San Bartolo School.

On the main highway I saw another similar sized crowd being directed by members of SENAPROC the Panamanian emergency response organization.

Crowd moving through town

It was hot and humid and one small boy was taken ill and had to be evacuated by ambulance.

A semi festive mood was clear. Most people laughed and the children were especially glad to miss school for a day.

Crowd moving through town

One local woman, Gloria Cortez, said the walk was only about 20 minutes. She was elderly but didn’t seem fazed by the long walk or the heat.

Like many citizens of Puerto Gloria took the Tsunami preparedness exercise seriously.

The head of the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP) Arnulfo Sánchez, will take the plan to the national legislature for its approval. The plan does include the all-important installation of SIRENS (an important feature in Hawaii and all Asian coastal countries) as well as flood plain maps and designated escape routes.

Crowd moving through town

Puerto Armuelles is a prime spot for a potential earthquake. If you look at the diagram below you will see it is located near 5 plates. The most obvious area of concern is the plate convergence zone south of the Burrica Peninsular. If there was a Strike-Slip earthquake event here then a possible Tsunami could be generated and could reach Puerto within 3 to 5 minutes. This means the standard warning systems would be ineffective. The only way to warn the citizens would be with sirens. Again the possible short warning time means the usual evacuation plan would take too long and the only possible means of saving life would be for people to scramble, as best they could, onto their rooftops.

Read this article about the HILO Tsunami. That Tsunami travelled across the Pacific at an astonishing 400 miles an hour.

Map of the teutonic plates

Map of the earthquakes


Although earthquake prediction seems a long way off there are certain signs that could save lives. Many years ago I talked to some people in HILO, Hawaii about the Tsunami they had back in 1960. One person remembered that the sea retreated and the harbour was dry with fish wriggling around. This news unfortunately spread and several people came down to the ocean to witness the phenomena- then tragically the Tsunami struck.

So… if you see the ocean retreat further than normal - RUN TO High ground.



An article in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph highlights several instances were elephants and other animals seemed to sense an impending earthquake and Tsunami and fled to higher ground. Click on this link to read the article:


A friend of mine lived for many years in the earthquake prone island of Bermuda. He told me that they always knew when an earthquake was coming because the birds would go silent about and before.

Communication is the key here. I did produce a documentary video on earthquakes in Canada and one positive part of my research showed that the cell tower network is extremely resilient. They withstand earthquakes very well and their built in emergency power generation means they will be a great resource after a major earthquake.

My suggestion to my friends in the Panama emergency services is to get a series of sirens up and running as soon as possible.

Puerto has had many earthquakes. So the possibility of a Tsunami is a very real prospect, thankfully after this last simulation- we the people of this great little city, are a little more prepared.

Share this post: