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Marshalls bracing for king tides

Wednesday 9 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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MAJURO – People in the Marshall Islands are being warned of flooding due to very high tides combined with a storm brewing in the area.

The National Weather Service on Guam has issued a warning of possible inundation this week in Majuro.

The atolls of the Marshall Islands are narrow and practically level with the sea, leaving their 68,000 residents nowhere to move to as a rising sea and increasingly frequent floods threatens to swamp the country.

Unlike in many parts of the world where climate change often seems a distant threat, for the Marshallese it is already a daily reality.

The latest storm, which is expected to move across the Marshall Islands this week with near-gale force winds, is kicking up heavy ocean swells that are expected to raise the risk of ocean flooding of low-lying areas in the Marshall Islands capital.

High tide today at 4.39pm local time yesterday was anticipated as the highest of the year.

Historically, February and March bring the highest king tides annually in the Marshall Islands.

They have caused inundation at the lowest points on the atolls that are little more than a metre above the high tide mark.

In March 2014 a king tide combined with a storm surge swept the sea over Majuro atoll and through the streets of the capital. Hundreds of stunned residents were evacuated from their homes.

The Guam Weather Service says coastal inundation is possible this week along north facing shores of Ejit and northern Darrit and inside the lagoon through to Friday morning after which the high tide cycle will dissipate.

The storm that is developing north of Wake Island and is moving towards the Marshall Islands increases the possibility of ocean inundation.

The Weather Service notice has urged local residents to “take action to protect crops and properties and stay away from flooded areas along north facing shores.”

The warning comes on the 70th anniversary this week of the Bikini Islanders evacuation from their home atoll for the start of nuclear weapons testing in 1946.

Ejit Island, which hosts a community of several hundred displaced Bikini Islanders, was flooded with ocean water a year ago in similar king tides.

- PNC sources