The devastation of the December 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean created a heightened public awareness and policy changes to improve early warning systems. The latest quake that occurred today in Indonesia’s Sumatra region appears to have produced a tsunami measuring one to three meters, and areas in the potential path were quickly warned.
The staffing levels and the sensor network of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center were considerably increased after the 2004 tragedy. The center went from 8 persons in 2004 to 15 person in 2006, and implemented 24×7 coverage. The center operated 10 Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) instruments and will have a total of 32 instruments by the end of 2008.
The Warning Centre alerted Indonesia and Australia that they may see waves within an hour, and Sri Lanka and India within three. Thailand sent cell phone text messages alerting hundreds of officials in six southern provinces. Alerts reached as far as Kenya, Africa where citizens were told to leave the beaches.
It’s encouraging to see marked improvement in the sensing and alerting systems that will help avert the recurrence of a tragedy of similar magnitude. The international cooperation that sparked an upgrade in tsunami sensors and system interaction also sparked the development of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems that I related in an earlier post.