tsunami

16 years of Indian Ocean tsunami: What India has learnt

The Sumatra earthquake and tsunami are considered to be an eye-opener for India as it introduced the Indian coastline to tsunami and its destructible power.

December 26 marks the 16th anniversary of the massive Indian Ocean tsunami. On this day, a 100-foot high tsunami triggered by an earthquake of magnitude 9.1, one of the largest ever recorded, from under the Indian Ocean killed more than 230,000 people in South Asia. With the epicentre near Sumatra, Indonesia, the earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia.

A tsunami researcher and forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Tsunami Research, Vasily Titov cites the destructive capacity of the 2004 tsunami to the earthquake in the megathrust fault, ‘where heavy oceanic plates subduct beneath lighter continental plates’. “They are the largest faults in the world and they’re all underwater,” History reported him saying. He added that the tsunami waves could be seen like a large pebble falling in the ocean causing mega ripples.

The Sumatra earthquake and tsunami are considered to be an eye-opener for India as it introduced the Indian coastline to tsunami and its destructible power. Learning from the unprecedented natural disaster that led to such heavy damage to life and property, the Ministry of Earth founded the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System (ITEWS) at Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad in October 2007.

Scientists in India are now able to predict and project movements in Indian ocean through real-time seismic monitoring with Bottom Pressure Recorders (BPR), tide gauges and 24×7 operational tsunami warning system to detect tsunamigenic earthquakes as to provide early advisories to the most vulnerable.

A community performance-based programme known as Tsunami Ready has also been started by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO to promote tsunami preparedness by actively involving the public, community leaders, and national and local emergency management agencies. As part of the UNESCO-IOC framework, the ITEWC now offers advisories to all Indian Ocean rim countries.

India is the first country to establish an early warning system for tsunami detection, while Odisha is the first state in the country to get Tsunami Ready recognition.

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