A tsunami alert sent to residents of the south of France: is there a risk?

Is there a risk of seeing a tsunami in France? In any case, a tsunami alert simulation exercise is being organized in several departments in the south of France this Friday, January 19.

A tsunami alert sent to residents of the south of France: is there a risk?

Is there a risk of seeing a tsunami in France? In any case, a tsunami alert simulation exercise is being organized in several departments in the south of France this Friday, January 19.

Warning against the risk of a tsunami. Residents of departments located on the Mediterranean Sea received a tsunami warning message on their phone this Friday, January 19, between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. In detail, the departments of Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Hérault, Aude, Pyrénées-Orientales, Haute-Corse and Corse-du -South are concerned by this simulation exercise.

If there is no gigantic wave on the horizon, the prefecture of the Southern Defense and Security Zone is organizing this exercise for preventive purposes. The objective is to “raise awareness among the population of the coastal municipalities concerned about receiving this type of alert on smartphones and remind them of the right reflexes to adopt” as the prefecture explains in a press release. This false alert also makes it possible to test this national alert and information system FR-Alert and to evaluate the reactions of recipients. Thus, in the message received, residents will find two links. The first, distributed exclusively to coastal communities, makes it possible to geographically represent whether the alert was received or not. The second directs the population to a questionnaire whose aim is to collect residents’ feelings about this exercise.

As this is a simulation, the authorities point out that the exercise does not call for "any action or reaction from the recipients of the alert". In order to obtain an estimate of the functionality of the system, a team of students from the University of Avignon is sent to the Grau-du-Roi area in Gard. Monitoring of the operation will be available on the prefecture's social networks.

Although it is difficult to imagine that a tsunami could hit the French coast, the risk is very real. According to the report "Historical inventory of tsunamis in France" published in 2012 by the Bureau of Geological and Mining Research (BGRM), 80 tsunamis have already occurred in France since 1564, including 29 in the Mediterranean, 6 in the Atlantic Ocean, 13 in Channel and North Sea and 32 overseas where the risk is higher given their geographical position. According to UNESCO, the risk of a tsunami occurring in mainland France and more precisely in the Mediterranean is 100% “over the next thirty years”.

The risk of seeing tsunamis form and hit the French coast is especially linked to the seismic activity of the southern regions, since in 7 out of 10 cases tsunamis are caused by an earthquake. However, in mainland France it is the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region which is the most prone to earthquakes. It is more particularly the Côte d'Azur which is concerned, because located at the junction between two tectonic plates, a seismic fault extends in particular from Nice to the Italian city of Savona. The city of Cannes will be awarded the UNESCO Tsunami Ready distinction for its commitment to combating the risks linked to seismic activity. Several cities in the region have also been working for several years to address the risk of tsunamis.

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