May 25, 2019 | Updated: 10:06 PM EDT

10 Year Anniversary of Indian Ocean Tsunami, What Researchers have Done to Prevent Future Devastation

Dec 26, 2014 05:09 PM EST

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The tsunami as it hit Thailand on Dec. 26, 2004.
(Photo : TT NEWS AGENCY/SIPA PRESS)

Today marks 10 years since the Indian Ocean Tsunami devastated countries across South and Central Asia. In one of recent history's deadliest natural disasters, almost a quarter million people died and a half million more were displaced. The earthquake that caused the tsunami was a magnitude of 9.1, causing resulting waves more than 50 feet high crashing down, levelling entire communities.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was able to take so many lives due to the lack of warning systems in the Indian Ocean. Those in the affected areas had little-to-no warning and no time to evacuate. Since then, it has been an international effort to develop and put into practice a reliable warning system.

A new system, since then implemented and announced this morning, uses floating buoys and seismic sensors to relay warning information to land. The system is effective, but still has its fallbacks. The relay system takes several minutes to raise the initial alarm, and it take even more time on top of that to confirm a tsunami, which still leaves those living closest to the shore very little time to prepare. Still, "we've gone from no system at all on Dec. 26, 2004, to a coordinated Indian Ocean system," says Laura Kong, director of the Unesco/IOC-NOAA International Tsunami Center in Hawaii.

This system is still far off from the one that covers the Pacific for the U.S. and Japan, so its progress doesn't end here. "Our goal is to send out a warning to everyone in the country within two minutes of a possible tsunami being detected. We want to clear the beaches, get everyone out of the way" US Navy Capt. Song Ekmahachai says.

Another goal they must try to achieve is a warning siren that everyone can hear. Thailand's National Disaster Warning Center is working on drills and simulations to test the system seeing how fast they can get the information out to the public.

Other systems being implemented to improve the warning system are volunteer teams that will help educate the public, as well as, 3-D mapping technology that will help better predict which coastal areas are most likely to be affected. These improvements give everyone hope for the future and give peace of mind to those who lived through the 2004 tragedy, though nothing will dull the pain of what happened a decade ago. 

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