India join Pacific tsunami warning system

Friday, 31 December 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Asserting that India would join the Pacific tsunami warning system, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has called for an empowered national panel for disaster management and the development of an integrated warning system using methods like stress forecasting of quakes.

Describing as "shock embedded tidal waves" the tsunamis generated by an undersea quake near Indonesia that claimed some 122,000 lives in Asia, Kalam has also stressed on earthquake prediction research with integrated national and international partnership.

In an article to be published as the cover story of the Week newsmagazine, the scientist-president has proposed a disaster management authority empowered by law to deal with calamities such as the weekend tsunamis that claimed at least 13,000 lives long the coasts of south and southeast India.

"Our geo-scientists, technologists and research institutes need to lay more thrust on such a positive approach and work for the challenging task of evolving a reliable model for earthquake prediction," the president said.

According to him, it was essential that India's seashores and its islands be provided with a tsunami warning system or its equivalent with the Indian control centre connected to the Pacific tsunami warning centre.

"Nationally, we must have an Empowered National Disaster Management Authority, which can swiftly go into action to minimise the damage level and ensure early restoration of normal life.

"This authority should be able to draw support from any group or facilities of ministries and departments of both the state and the Centre. The authority should also help in rehabilitation of affected people and help them overcome the trauma in a quick and effective way."

The panel could also involve local volunteers, the civil administration and non government organisations, he said.

Kalam described the tsunami disaster as one of the largest calamities that the world had witnessed, comparing it with the nuclear holocaust of World War II.

Pointing to the delays due to lapses in delivery and coordination, Kalam suggested that the authority be given executive and legal powers to ensure that unscrupulous elements did not exploit well-meaning governmental initiatives.

Kalam said India would join the tsunami warning system designed to protect 26 Pacific Ocean countries from distant-source tsunamis.

"Earthquakes on the sea floor are the origin of tsunami waves. The Pacific nations have a tsunami warning system which is designed to protect 26 Pacific countries from distant-source tsunamis. India will now join this group.

"After the earthquake has occurred beneath the sea floor at shallow depth, it takes three hours for dynamic waves of large heights to be formed. The shock embedded wave travels at a speed of about 1,000 kilometres per hour. All communities within a three-hour travel time of the epicentre are alerted by the tsunami warning system."

He said already the Indian government was working on an alert system involving various bodies such as the Department of Science and Technology, Indian Space Research Organisation, Department of Atomic Energy, Defence Research and Development Organisation, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and educational institutions.

"They can evolve an integrated technological solution in the form of sensor, communication system, networking and high intensity tidal wave warning system along with a well-structured communication and control system for disaster warning and management."

He suggested the method of stress forecasting, or monitoring the build-up of stress by analysing "shear-wave splitting" to recognise signs of a large earthquake.

"Such stress forecasting would allow appropriate preparations to mitigate a hazard that specific short-term predictions would not," said the president.

Mentioning reservations about stress forecasting, with regard to its inability to pinpoint the location, he pointed out that earthquake prediction was always local.

"Hence, with the help of stress forecasting if it is known that a large earthquake is going to occur and the rate of increase and the time when fracture criticality will be reached is estimated, local information may be able to indicate the fault that would break."

Kalam also urged Indian engineers to focus their research on designing "lightweight, strong, durable and cost-effective structures" that could withstand earthquakes.

He also called for a long-term programme to predict the earthquake on land and in the seabed sufficiently in advance to provide adequate warning and minimise loss of life.

Commenting on the groundswell of support from India and abroad for the victims, the president said human action should defeat the ferocity of the nature.

Kalam urged Indians to come forward and adopt affected individuals to help the pick up the pieces.

"We should prepare the dossier of all affected persons, institutions and systems and make them publicly available. Then every well-to-do Indian family should adopt one of the affected individuals and guide them financially and otherwise to help them start a normal life," he said, describing it as a "People's Movement".

Source: IANS
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