Punta Arenas is basically free from the impact of tsunamis and sea quakes according to Chilean authorities from the country's early warning system that extends all along the country's coast in coordination with international organizations.
Actually Chile is a full member of the Hawaii based Pacific Tsunami International Alert System with local coordination in the hands of the Chilean Navy's Hydrographical and Oceanographic Service, SHOA, which is also responsible for the country's Sea quakes early Alert System.
A network of stations all along the 4,500 kilometres of coast enables Chile to supply via satellite vital data on sea level and activity to the Navy's SHOA offices every sixty minutes. The information is shared with the Geophysics Marine Department.
Geologist Emilio Lorca Mella from SHOA revealed that Punta Arenas "is naturally protected from external sea quakes, and the best example of this was the May 22, 1960 tsunami which impacted all along the Pacific Rim". "That is why Punta Arenas does not figure in the tsunami impact areas charts", added Mr. Lorca Mella.
Regarding the recent deadly tsunami Mr. Lorca Mella revealed that "for Chile it is normal that we are notified by the Pacific Tsunami Alert System 30 minutes after the seism occurs. And for sea quakes under Chilean influence areas notification of an important seism is less than 20 minutes".
In Magallanes Region SHOA operates a seismic station in El Roble hill which automatically activates when a strong seism happens, with information fed into a computer system that in minutes determines the epicentre and the potential capacity to generate a sea quake. Besides, SHOA closely monitors tidal fluctuations in the Magellan Strait.
"The system gives us time to communicate the early warning alert to populations along the coast and at the same time double check information with the Hawaii Pacific Early System", concluded Mr. Lorca Mella.