The new European project Near-field Tsunami Early Warning and Emergency Planning in the Mediterranean Sea (NEARTOWARN) faces the need to develop operational tsunami early warning systems in near-field (local) conditions where the travel time of the first tsunami wave is very short, that is less than 30 min, which is a typical case in the North East Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea region but also elsewhere around the globe. The operational condition that should be fulfilled is that the time of tsunami detection, plus the time of warning transmitting, plus the time of evacuation should not exceed the travel time of the first tsunami wave from its source to the closest evacuation zone. To this goal the time to detect of the causative earthquake should be compressed at the very minimum. In this context the core of the proposed system is a network of seismic early warning devices, which activate and send alert in a few seconds after the generation of a near-field earthquake, when a seismic ground motion exceeding a prescribed threshold is detected. Then civil protection mobilizes to manage the earthquake crisis but also to detect and manage a possible tsunami through a geographical risk management system. For the tsunami detection the system is supported by tide-gauges of radar type, a database of presimulated tsunami scenarios, and a local tsunami decision matrix. The island of Rhodes in the eastern termination of the Hellenic Arc and Trench has been selected for a pilot and operational development of the local tsunami warning system given that the island is a highly popular tourist destination, historically it was hit by large tsunamigenic earthquakes and was recently the master test-site for the pan-European FP6 tsunami research project Tsunami Risk ANd Strategies For the European Region (TRANSFER).
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