Tsunami Warning System Working In Asia

Is it possible to get an early warning of a tsunami? In his 1953 novel Childhood's End, a young boy playing on a beach receives a timely warning:

Jeff was exploring the rock pools along the narrow Spartan beach-an occupation he found endlessly absorbing... The day was quiet and peaceful. There was not a breath of wind...

Very firmly, something took hold of the beach and gave it a single, sudden jerk. The tremor passed so swiftly that Jeff wondered if he had imagined it...

And then a very strange thing began to happen. Swifter than any tide could ebb, the water was receding from the shore. Jeff watched, deeply puzzled and not in the least afraid, as the wet sands were uncovered and lay sparkling in the sun. He followed the retreating ocean, determined to make the most of whatever miracle had opened up the underwater world for his inspection...

One of the salvage parties, hours later, found Jeff on a great block of coral that had been hurled twenty metres above the normal water level...

"You're a brave lad, and it's a good thing you were sensible and ran in time. I've heard about these tidal waves before. A lot of people get drowned because they go out on the uncovered beach to see what's happened."

"That's what I did," confessed Jeff. "I wonder who it was helped me? ...I was right down the beach, by that old wreck, when the voice spoke."

"What did it say?"

"I can't quite remember, but it was something like 'Jeffrey, get up the hill as quickly as you can. You'll be drowned if you stay here.' (From Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End)

Unfortunately, there are no alien Overlords to provide us with this sort of help. However, UNESCO has been working on a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean region; the system is now in place just 18 months after the tsunami of December 2004 that killed more than 200,000 people.

UNESCO's tsunami early warning system includes:

  • 26 national tsunami information centres receiving information from 25 new seismographic stations.
  • Three deep-ocean sensors to detect and report tsunamis.
This system follows the model used in the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, founded in 1949 in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. It provides warnings for tsunamis to most countries in the Pacific Basin as well as to Hawaii and all other US interests in the Pacific outside of Alaska and the US West Coast. Those areas are served by the West Coast / Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WC/ATWC) in Palmer, Alaska. PTWC is also the warning center for Hawaii's local and regional tsunamis.

Read a bit more about the Asian tsunami warning system.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/2/2006)

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