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The Lurking Tsunami: Are We Ready?

"The man does better who runs from disaster than he who is caught by it"

……..Homer in 'Smyrns of Chios'//

On the fateful morning of the 26th of December 2004, giant killer waves struck the Indian coastline, wrecking havoc that was unprecedented in both its severity and impact. These waves, otherwise known as the Tsunami, was the most devastating that history has witnessed, and left behind an agonizing trail of death and destruction. It was triggered by an earthquake of the magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale, which had originated off Sumatra, in the Indonesian Archipelago.

The 'Tsunami', meaning 'waves' in Japanese, is a series of large ocean waves, caused by an underwater activity, like an earthquake, volcanic eruption or a landslide, which displaces a large body of water. In the open sea, these waves measure up to 15 cms and are of no consequence, but on heading landward, their speed diminishes as they assume gigantic proportions to conserve the total energy. They unleash their fury on reaching the land, and destroy everything within their reach.

The Tsunami normally occurs in the Pacific Ocean, and Hawaii, a pacific island, is at the greatest risk for it. Although considered a relatively rare event, the Tsunamis have claimed thousands of lives worldwide and impacted the existence of millions. Damage to properties along coastal cities has been accounted to be worth several million US dollars.

As a phenomenon alien to the region, the catastrophic giant waves took the Indian sub-continent completely unawares. The southern states of India were the worst affected. The Government has sanctioned funds to the tune of 1127 crore for relief and rehabilitation activities. The Rural Development Department, along with several NGOs, coordinated with a network of functionaries and performed a commendable task to put the affected back on the road of recovery.

It has become increasingly clear that there i s no room for complacency.To be forewarned is to be forearmed,and India can soon boast of her own Tsunami warning system, by 2007, that will enable the home ministry to get a warning within 10 minutes of an earth quake. The Government has set aside Rs.1250 million for the project.

So now that India's warning system is soon to be in place, can we afford to be laid- back? It would be foolish to underestimate the Tsunami's potential to wipe out civilizations. Steps should also be taken to formulate a broader framework of policies on disaster management.

Sustained efforts in creating public awareness, preparedness training in high-risk zones, educating the public on mitigation or risk reduction and creating natural disaster insurance policies are some of the immediate steps that need to be taken to soften the impact of similar disasters and to salvage lost grounds.

"We do not expect disaster until we have specific reason to expect it – and when we encounter it we are free to fight it"

……Ayn Rnd
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