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International Recovery Platform

Disaster memorial events for increasing awareness and preparedness: 150 years since the Arica tsunami in Aotearoa-New Zealand

On 15 August 1868, a great earthquake struck off the coast of the Chile-Peru border generating a tsunami that travelled across the Pacific Ocean. Wharekauri-Rēkohu-The Chatham Islands, located 800 km east of Christchurch city, was one of the worst affected locations in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Tsunami waves, including three over six metres high, injured and killed people, destroyed buildings and infrastructure and affected the environment, economy and communities. Advancements in disaster risk reduction systems and technology have significantly advanced since then, as has Aotearoa-New Zealand's capacity to be ready for and respond to earthquakes and tsunami. However, collective memory of this event and other tsunami events has diminished. In 2018, a team of scientists, emergency managers and communication specialists collaborated to organise a memorial event on the Chatham Islands and coordinate a multi-agency media campaign to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1868 Arica tsunami. This paper describes the purpose and variety of contexts in which anniversary memorial events are held. The 1868 Arica tsunami event and the design and components of the 150th anniversary memorial event are examined to detail the educative function this memorial held and potential improvements for future memorial events. The importance of commemorating centennial disaster anniversaries using memorial events is highlighted as it raises awareness and increases community preparedness for future events: 'lest we forget and let us learn.'


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