GENEVA, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Portugal is to formally open a National Tsunami Warning Center on Nov. 21, which will extend Europe's capacity to issue tsunami alerts to its citizens, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said Friday in a statement.
This center will monitor an area where a large earthquake followed by a big tsunami destroyed Lisbon in 1755 said the office.
UNISDR said there is a concern that only 16 of the 39 countries at risk in the North East Atlantic, Mediterranean (NEAM) and connected seas region have subscribed to the Tsunami Early Warning Services.
Since the year 2000, more than 11 million people have been affected by tsunamis.
These have resulted in some 250,000 deaths with the highest death tolls in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Japan, India and Thailand, said the UN office said the UN office.
Ahead of the World Tsunami Awareness Day on Nov. 5, the head of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Tsunami Unit, Thorkild Aarup said: "Significant progress has been made since 2005 in the development of the NEAM tsunami warning and mitigation system."
In the long terms, UNISDR said that such systems will save lives and reduce economic losses in regions where the risk remains acute even if there is a long interval between tsunamis.
"We are using the occasion of World Tsunami Preparedness Day to appeal to all Member States in the NEAM region at risk of tsunamis, to start using the services available to them," said Aarup.
Supporting this appeal, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser said that the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami marked a turning point in tsunami early warning systems following the deaths of 230,000 people.
"There is no doubt that the death toll from that rare but inevitable event would have been reduced considerably if today's Indian Ocean tsunami warning system had been in place then," said Glasser.