26 December 2004: More than 7,000 people have been killed across southern Asia in massive sea surges triggered by the strongest earthquake in the world for 40 years. The quake struck under the sea near Aceh in north Indonesia, generating a destructive tsunami hitting Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives and Bangladesh.
Detailed technical/scientific information will be posted on the ITSU web site as it becomes available. Worldwide, tsunami experts are investigating the event.
This is the Tsunami Warning Bulletin issued by PTWC:
TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 002
PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS
ISSUED AT 0204Z 26 DEC 2004
THIS BULLETIN IS FOR ALL AREAS OF THE PACIFIC BASIN EXCEPT
ALASKA - BRITISH COLUMBIA - WASHINGTON - OREGON - CALIFORNIA.
.................. TSUNAMI INFORMATION BULLETIN ..................
ATTENTION: NOTE REVISED MAGNITUDE.
THIS MESSAGE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. THERE IS NO TSUNAMI WARNING
OR WATCH IN EFFECT.
AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS
ORIGIN TIME - 0059Z 26 DEC 2004
COORDINATES - 3.4 NORTH 95.7 EAST
LOCATION - OFF W COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATERA
MAGNITUDE - 8.5
REVISED MAGNITUDE BASED ON ANALYSIS OF MANTLE WAVES.
THIS EARTHQUAKE IS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE PACIFIC. NO DESTRUCTIVE
TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS FOR THE PACIFIC BASIN BASED ON HISTORICAL
EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA.
THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF A TSUNAMI NEAR THE EPICENTER.
THIS WILL BE THE ONLY BULLETIN ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE.
THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE BULLETINS
FOR ALASKA - BRITISH COLUMBIA - WASHINGTON - OREGON - CALIFORNIA.
The Pacific Disaster Center on Maui today launched the Indian Ocean Tsunami Geospatial Information Service to support emergency managers responding to the tsunami disaster in South and Southeast Asia.
The new information service is part of the Center's Asia Pacific Natural Hazards Information Network (APHNIN http://apnhin.pdc.org), a resource for disaster managers to tap into high-quality geospatial data to reduce disaster risk and vulnerability in the region. The new service will provide information specific to the tsunami that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Accurate geospatial information is an absolutely indispensable resource during disaster response and recovery. This service will support emergency managers and relief agencies as they respond to this tragic event.
Specifically, the Indian Ocean Tsunami Geospatial Information Service will support emergency managers by providing geospatial information including baseline Landsat imagery, SRTM-derived shaded relief images, LANDSCAN-derived population density, detailed coastlines, damage polygons, and high-resolution imagery as it becomes available.
The Pacific Disaster Center provides applied information research and analysis for the development of more effective policies, institutions, programs, and information products for disaster-management and humanitarian assistance communities of the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
Allen Clark, senior research fellow and executive director of the Pacific Disaster Center, said the Pacific Disaster Center takes scientific information and creates a disaster notification alert to all emergency managers in Hawaii and elsewhere. "The real tragedy of all this is that the system is there, the technology is there, the capability is there, it just wasn't in place in the Indian Ocean when the thing hit."
Charles E. Morrison, president of the East-West Center, said the East-West Center and the Pacific Disaster Center "stand prepared" to do what they can to enhance tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean. Morrison said the two Centers may organize and host an international workshop for South and Southeast Asian countries to discuss.
[received by IOC 1 Jan 2005]
Q: What happens after a warning goes out? Has the U.S., or another nation been able to evacuate coastal areas in response to a warning, and if so, how quickly?
A: Both the PTWC and WC/ATWC are regional Tsunami Warning Centers. They are responsible for issuing local tsunami advisories, alerts and warnings for local tsunamis triggered by a local seismic event. When a warning for a local tsunami is issued, each State’s Emergency Managers (EM) Office is quickly notified. The decision to evacuate a coastal area rests with each responsible EM. The PTWC also serves as the Tsunami Warning Center for the Pacific. Under this mandate, PTWC issues tsunami bulletins, advisories and warnings for teletsunamis. For such Pacific Basin teletsunamis, PTWC relies on its network of national and international seismic and oceanographic stations to pinpoint the exact location and magnitude of a seismic event, and determine whether a tsunami has been generated. If PTWC determines that a destructive tsunami has been generated, tsunami warnings are issued. These warning include seismic data, potential tsunami (wave) heights and projected impact (travel) times.
As an example, a teletsunami generated by a South American seismic event would take 12-13 hours to reach Hawaii. For a local Hawaii, Alaska, or West Coast seismic event generating a tsunami, travel times for the immediate area are minimal. For such local events, it is critical that the public is fully aware of tsunami hazards – and the need to immediately evacuate the coastal areas. For the States of Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, tsunami sirens are used to alert the public. Additionally, NOAA, under its National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) has embarked upon an aggressive inter-governmental, multi-pronged effort to (1) improve the US’s tsunami warning capabilities (2) improve tsunami hazard assessment (produce local tsunami inundation maps) and (3) develop localized tsunami hazard mitigation programs including public awareness and community awareness (TsunamiReady Communities).
And yes, other nations (Japan in particular) as well as the U.S. (in Hawaii) have been able to quickly and effectively evacuate key coastal population centers in direct response to Regional and PTWC-issued tsunami warnings.
Q: Why haven’t the other Indian Ocean Nations joined as members of the United Nation’s UNESCO/IOC/International Coordination Group on Tsunamis?
A: The UNESCO/IOC/IGC/ITSU in its Master Plan has recognized the need to establish tsunami warning centers for areas of the earth beyond the Pacific Basin that are vulnerable to Tsunamis. These areas include the Indian Ocean Basin. UNESCO/IOC/IGC/ITSU has convened a Working Group on the Tsunami Warning System in the Southwest Pacific and Indian Ocean and has encouraged non-ITSU Member States in the Indian Ocean basin to contact the IOC Secretariat to request membership in the IGC/ITSU. As a result of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the IOC/IGC based on its mandate and experience with ICG/ITSU, will lead an effort to expand the currently existing system in the Pacific to the World Ocean to ensure that appropriate warning systems are available in all regions of the world that are prone to Tsunamis. This decision is fully consistent with the current initiative to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems. For that purpose immediate consultations will be undertaken with the Officers of ICG/ITSU and representatives of concerned countries.
From the Times of London (online) 1 January 2005
Girl's sea warning saved a hundred
A GIRL aged ten saved a hundred fellow tourists from the tsunami
because of a geography lesson about the giant waves. Tilly Smith urged
her family to get off Maikhao beach in Thailand after seeing the tide
rush out and boats on the horizon begin to bob violently.
The youngster, recalling a recent school project on quakes, turned to
her mother Penny and said: "Mummy, we must get off the beach now. I
think there is going to be a tsunami." Penny and her husband Colin
alerted others and they cleared the Phuket beach just in time. It was
one of the few beaches where no one has been reported killed or
Last night Tilly, from Oxshott, Surrey, told The Sun that credit for
her quick-thinking should go to Andrew Kearney, her geography teacher
at Danes Hill Preparatory School.
On Wednesday 29 December, Koïchiro Matsuura, convened the Task force on the prevention of natural disasters, in order to study UNESCO’s response and its participation in international aid that is materialising following the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the earthquake that, on 26 December, ravaged the western coast of northern Sumatra, hitting eight Indian Ocean countries.
UNESCO’s Director-General first expressed his deep sorrow in face of “the enormity of the catastrophe and the destructive power of the tidal wave” that has killed tens of thousands and injured hundreds of thousands of people, obliterated infrastructures and destroyed homes, schools and cultural heritage in this region of the world. Inviting all UNESCO’s field offices in the region to proceed with assessing needs and to present suggestions to him, Mr. Matsuura asked that “the entire Secretariat coordinate in order to make available to these countries the expertise acquired by the Organization in natural disaster and post-conflict situations.” “We must work towards establishing risk-prevention policies, and towards extending warning systems available to the greatest number,” he added. “This is a domain in which we have the means and the experience to act effectively and quickly. This should be one of UNESCO’s major contributions, in the short, medium and long term.”
“It is too soon to talk about the reconstruction of the school system in the devastated regions, but we must ensure that there is no interruption in schooling,” said Mr. Matsuura. “As a large number of young people risk being left handicapped, it is essential that we develop rapidly our activities in inclusive education.” The education sector is mobilizing all of its partners, notably its teacher network, in order to bring swift psychological and pedagogical support to young people, and to establish structures that will allow the school programme to continue until schools are rebuilt. One contribution UNESCO could make is adding natural disaster prevention classes to school curricula. Another possibility under consideration for the future is the creation of a UNESCO Chair in risk evaluation and management.
An inventory of natural and cultural heritage sites that have been damaged or destroyed is already underway, the culture sector and the World Heritage Centre having established contact with the countries concerned by the disaster. The Director General has asked that attention be paid also to those sites that are not on the World Heritage list, but that present particular interest as ecosystems. He therefore asked for an environmental assessment to be launched, in order to measure the impact on the biosphere of certain animal or plant species becoming extinct.
As risk prevention is a major priority, the sciences sector will examine, in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the possibility of extending to the Indian Ocean the Tsunami Warning System established in the Pacific by the International Coordination Group. The system, created by the IOC in 1968, includes 26 Member States. As the expertise acquired in the Pacific can be usefully applied to the Indian Ocean, Mr. Matsuura has decided to bring up the question at international conferences upcoming in January in Mauritius and Kobe (Japan). The sciences sector will also work with the education sector to set up programmes in natural disaster prevention and sustainable development.
The information and communications sector, relying on its experience in establishing community radios, will study the necessary means for participating, on one hand, in setting up a natural disaster warning system that will effectively alert populations, and on the other, providing support for distance education programmes for displaced people.
Mr Matsuura asked that the entire Secretariat mobilize and coordinate in order to reinforce the effectiveness of actions undertaken at all levels, at the same time ensuring that its initiatives complement the efforts of the United Nations system and the international community. “Beyond the urgent relief provided at the demand of stricken countries, we must become involved in the medium and long term. It is not UNESCO’s vocation to give urgent humanitarian and medical assistance, but as a full-fledged member of the United Nations system, it must be prepared to respond appropriately, within its fields of competence, to the needs of suffering people,” said Mr. Matsuura, emphasizing once again the absolute necessity of bringing about a “genuine culture of prevention on a world scale.”