[thechat] Tsunami toll: 52000

Judah McAuley judah at wiredotter.com
Tue Jan 4 17:38:16 CST 2005

Luther, Ron wrote:
> William Anderson noted:
>>>You (the proverbial "you", of course) didn't install a tsunami detection 
>>>system as was done by countries with coasts on the Pacific
> Dude ... that's cold.
> 'Detection' is generally an after the fact kind of thing which relies upon
> having communications infrastructure and civil defense evacuation planning 
> (and personnel ... and well-maintained equipment) in place to be effective. 
> 'Prediction' and fair warning being, as yet, imperfect sciences detection 
> measures may have provided some hours of warning to some of the victims and 
> saved some lives ... my guess would be a pretty small fraction.

Actually, I'm willing to bet that tens of thousands of lives would have 
been saved by a warning system. There would have been places in 
indonesia where it was going to hit hard and fast and there was no 
warning time to be had..but lots of other places had an hour or more 
that could have been used to get away from the coast line. Moving just a 
couple miles inland or a few hundred feet up in elevation would be the 
difference between being alive and having your town wrecked and being 
dead and having your town wrecked anyway.

> Detection or butter? ... Locally, and perhaps to some extent globally, 
> we are a short-sighted species ... Could any of us have 'sold' these 
> governments to have invested money on planning and prevention activities 
> for a 'once in 500 years' natural disaster? ... When they have pressing 
> concerns that would show more immediate benefits from that funding? 
> Could you, today, sell California, Mexico City, or the Pacific Rim (of 
> fire) on better planning for the big quake yet to come?

I grew up on the Oregon coast. We had tsunami drills and this was 20 odd 
years ago. Have we had a devestating tsunami recently? No. But we still 
have a warning system in place. And its a redundent system...it could be 
used as a general alert and warning, with more specific information to 

As for people being short sighted, this isn't the first tsunami in that 
area. Take a look at: 

I'm seeing 3 tsunami's in that area in the last 12 years.

India (or Thailand, I forget) even had a Typhoon warning system in place 
for fishing villages...but for what ever reason, it was not even 
triggered for the tsunami in spite of having a couple hour lead time.

Yes, I know that the budgets of a lot of these countries are not the 
highest in the world. On the other hand, the state of Andhra Pradesh in 
India is rolling out 2 Mb/s broadband to every villiage for a cost of 
about $2.50 USD/mnth.

People are now looking at creative ways to get the word out of 
disasters..like SMS alerts. Simple, inexpensive and able to hit a large 
portion of the populace. The detection system is in place...the bouys 
caught the tsunami early. We just need to do a better job of getting the 
word out to areas potentially effected.

It was a natural disaster of truly global proportions. But if I were in 
an affected area, my grief and shock would be quickly followed by some 
very tough and pointed questions for my government. I can only hope that 
this will result better disaster planning and warning systems for 
everyone involved so that when this happens again, it won't be quite so 


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