Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Tsunami

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in south Asia is unquestionably one of the largest disasters of our time. The scope is unimaginable. The effect on coastlines is many thousands of miles, lots of which is in areas that are difficult to access under good circumstances.

Sungchul sent a simulation.

The shemac sent me the following article.
Thanks to both.

Tsunami Warning Failed to Get Through-Thai Expert

By Crispian Balmer
PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) - A Thai expert said on
Monday he tried to warn the government a deadly
tsunami might be sweeping toward tourist-packed
beaches, but couldn't find anyone to take his calls.

Samith Dhammasaroj said he was sure a tsunami was
coming as soon as he heard about the massive Dec. 26
earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island that
measured magnitude 9.0 -- the world's biggest in 40

"I tried to call the director-general of the
meteorological office, but his phone was always busy,"
Samith said as he described his desperate attempts to
generate an alert which might have saved thousands of

"I tried to phone the office, but it was a Sunday and
no-one was there," said the former chief of the
meteorological department now charged with setting up
an early warning disaster system for Thailand.

"I knew that one day we would have this type of
tsunami. I warned that there would be a big disaster,"
he told reporters.

"Everyone laughed at me and said I was a bad guy who
wanted to ruin the tourist industry," he added.

The tsunami took just 75 minutes to hit the beaches
and islands of Thailand's Andaman Sea coast, 375 miles
from the earthquake's epicenter.

Now more than 5,100 people are dead, nearly half of
them foreign tourists who abandoned Europe's cold,
dark winter for golden sands and turquoise seas, and
left 3,800 missing, nearly 1,700 of them foreigners.

Downstairs from where he spoke, dozens of foreigners
were still scanning message boards, trying to match
grisly photos of bloated, battered bodies to the
smiling pictures of missing friends and relatives.

"I feel very sorry for the people who died," Samith
said. "I will make sure this thing does not happen

The early warning system for Thailand -- which has not
had a natural disaster in living memory worse than
floods during the annual monsoon -- would be ready in
six months, Samith promised.

"We will make the system very efficient," he said.


Preliminary investigations by a team of six Japanese
experts showed that the wall of water hit beaches
along the Thai coast at different speeds and heights,
with the phenomenon exacerbated by a high tide that
fed the tsunami as it neared land.

Khao Lak beach, lined with hotels and resorts
especially popular among Scandinavians and Germans
just north of Phuket, took the worst hit from waves up
to 10.5 meters (34 ft) high.

They roared up Khao Lak's gently sloping beach at
speeds of up to 8 meters a second (29 kilometers an
hour), said Professor Hideo Matsutomi, who led the
Japanese team.

"There have been six major tsunami in this region
since 1797, but I think this last tsunami was the
biggest," he said.

Tsunami are much more frequent in the Pacific Ocean
and countries there have long established an early
warning system to protect them from disaster.

Samith said countries in the Indian Ocean had to
follow suit and set up a network of underwater sea
monitors which might cost as little as $20 million to

Warnings of imminent inundations would be sent out
automatically on television and radio and by text
messages to mobile phones.

The system would help woo back tourists scared away by
the mass loss of life, Samith said.

"No-one can predict an earthquake, but you can predict
a tsunami," he said. "We will build a good system."


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