Tsunami emergency drill needed for Mayo

The force and danger of the mighty Atlantic lashing the Mayo coastline, which was all too evident in recent weeks, has prompted one Westport councillor to call for an emergency drill to be prepared and practised in the event of a tsunami striking here.

Exercises like a tsunami emergency drill have become commonplace in Japan following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011 but it would be a first for Mayo.

Cllr Keith Martin has been calling for the tsunami drill to be prepared for some time now and has written to Mayo County Council on the matter.

He says there is a precedent for such a disaster in local historial records, which describe a large wave hitting Westport Quay in November 1909.

The wave caused damage as it hit the Quay breaking the Quay wall and leaving large pieces of it strewn over the road to Rossbeg. The wave sent a wall of water four feet high as far as the old railway station, which is now the Quay school.

“The events are described in the article ‘Tidal wave at Westport Quay’, which details the memories of Michael J Lyons who was 15 at the time,” said Cllr Martin.

“Experts now believe the wave was the result of the tectonic plates shifting far out in the Atlantic and this sent a mini-tsunami wave racing ashore at Westport. Fortunately the damage was minor but it should serve as a warning to prepare.

“The odds of a tsunami hitting Westport or Mayo again must be millions to one but we should be prepared just as we would for an airplane or train crash or other such unlikely disasters.”

“We only have to look as the disasters in the Pacific to know how deadly water can be and we should not be complacent about such events. Towns like Westport and Newport are only feet above the sea level at their quays and we should be prepared.”

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