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Quake and Tsunami Devastate South Asia 744

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the thats-never-good dept.
pfb writes "From reuters, 'The world's fifth-largest quake in a century has hit southern Asia, triggering a speeding tsunami that crashed into Sri Lanka and India, drowning hundreds, and swamping tourist islands in Thailand and the Maldives.'"
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Quake and Tsunami Devastate South Asia

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  • Geez.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bugbeak (711163) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:11AM (#11184748)
    ...set off by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake...

    Windows in JAKARTA, Indonesia, were rattling, and some even broke. And that is a 2-3 hour flight away from the epicenter!
    • Re:Geez.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by The Cydonian (603441)
      Based in Singapore, and am just off calling folks back home in India (and elsewhere).

      Felt nothing here *in* Singapore myself, but guys, I can't tell you how awed by the sheer REGION this covered; there was a 2m wave in, hold your breath, Seychelles [sabcnews.com] which is about twice as far from Indonesia as the Indian sub-continent is.

  • by mOoZik (698544) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:11AM (#11184749) Homepage
    Tsunamis are notoriously difficult to detect, as they remain underwater until approaching the shore; also, the wavelength is in the order of kilometers, so it's very hard to track. However, I'm surprised earthquake detectors could were not used to evacuate people along the coast. A devastating loss of life is the result of such incompetence/inability.

    • They also have the ability to travel terrifically long distances. Sumatra to India isn't a small stretch, even if they're relative neighbours.

      What I'd like to know is - did the wave reach the east coast of Africa? Madagascar? did the Seychelles feel any of the effect? It was only this year a BBC documentary about tsunamis indicated they could easily travel across the largest oceans, but there hasn't been any news of African flooding.
    • What kind of time delay are we talking about between when the earthquake strikes and when the tsunami forms/hits the coast? I always imagined it was something very short, somewhere near a few minutes.

      What could be done in that short amount of time, exactly?
      • by Rob Carr (780861) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:27AM (#11184823) Homepage Journal
        What kind of time delay are we talking about between when the earthquake strikes and when the tsunami forms/hits the coast? In deep water, a tsunami goes about 500 mph. Not much time for folks in Sumatra, but the people of Sri Lanka might have been warned.

        As near as I can figure out, all the tsunami warning efforts are focused on the Pacific rim. There simply aren't enough tsunamis elsewhere to make it worth the effort. Or at least so the theory went.

        Why someone with a seismograph didn't look at the 8.9, look at a map, see the Indian ocean and go "Ya know, maybe we should warn someone" is beyond me. I guess 2 hours isn't that long when you don't have set procedures in place. Still....

        • by zogger (617870) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:51AM (#11184958) Homepage Journal
          I heard about it late last night on a net radio feed (my time EST 0 dark thirty am sometime, I was half asleep) right after it happened, but a tsunami wave travelling roughly the speed of a commercial jetliner doesn't give a lot of leeway even if the people in the soon to be affected areas hear about it.

          And this one follows that 8. something quake that hit between tasmania and antarctica just the other day.

          I think this story should be taken into consideration along with the asteroid stories, as this wave was only roughly 40-50 feet high, yet by some reports it traveled up to half a mile inland in some places. Just imagine one ten times higher (something like that) from a large asteroid oceanic strike.

          But ya, you would think that their would be some sort of emergency alert tied to seismographs, that would automatically get posted to various radio and television and internet sources if it was of sufficient strength, ie, danger. I know we have this alleged emergency alert system in the US that will over ride the TV and radio stations OTA broadcasts, but no idea in other nations what they have for that. Civil defense is always lesser funded than military offense in most nations it appears. What would it really cost to develop a radio based alert system for these various nations? Cost of one jet fighter or tank? And it could be tied to cellphones for that matter through the various national carriers, say, in a true natural disaster (impending or otherwise) scenario, your phone might ring with a pre recorded short message.

          I realise in the poorer areas it might be problematic, but surely someone in most areas has a phone or a radio or whatever, you don't have to get the message to every single human directly, just to enough of them in any given area for word of mouth to help out a lot. Wake up and alert one dude per poor village, he can go running outside yelling his head off for that matter, like "dang evac! Tsunami coming! Move it people!" something like that anyway. The old church bells ringing hard and fast deal.
    • Yes, they're difficult to detect over deep water. However, the earthquake was obvious enough and one should assume that there may be a tsunami after a quake like that. There should have been some kind of warning.

      Maybe some of the countries didn't have any sort of tsunami warning system. The west coast of USA and Canada has the NOAA West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center [wcatwc.gov].

    • by d_strand (674412) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:31AM (#11184847)
      You're beeing a bit harsh. These waves travel hundreds of kph/mph so any warning will only give you a few minutes, at most maybe an hour. All countries in the region are poor and not very well developed so they cant afford the types of systems you're talking about. Mostly they rely on western countries for warnings and the timings are very tight.

      A warning system should really be installed along the american southeast coast. The mountains/ocean shelves on several islands of the european/north african coast are extremely close to colapsing into the atlantic which would send enormous tsunamis towards USA. USA, as opposed to the countries struck today, can afford the systems...

      going back to hoping my neighbours made it... they're on vacation in Phuket
      • I don't think I am. We're talking about thousands of dead people because there was no system in place to potentially avert or lessen the impact of such a disaster. Instead of making excuses like you and others seem to be, you should instead be concentrating on what COULD HAVE been done and what SHOULD be done in the future. Even if one life is saved as a result of such a system, then it is successful. I understand that funding and related politics may hinder such a warning system, but feel it is in the inte
        • I agree. I just meant that the nasty political/economic reality means there wont be any systems like this in poor areas of the world. If not even the US will build one (pocket change for the US government) because it "allmost never happens", not many other will spend the money either. A few 1000 deaths every few years or so means nothing on a global scale. I dont agree with this, I think a single life saved is worth millions and millions of dollars, but I'm not the one in charge.
    • by Malc (1751) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @02:30PM (#11185707)
      Incompetency? How the hell are you going to evacuate these low-lying places in time? Do you think they have enough plans sitting fueled and ready to go on the runway in the Maldives? Do you think thousands of people on the coast of Bangladesh can move in land quickly enough?

      I think you need to educate yourself some more before passing such harsh judgement.
    • From Reuters ...
      NO WARNING SYSTEM

      In Los Angeles, the head of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said U.S. officials who detected the undersea quake tried frantically to get a warning out about the tsunami.

      But there was no official alert system in the region, said Charles McCreery, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's center in Honolulu.

      "It took an hour and a half for the wave to get from the earthquake to Sri Lanka and an hour for it to get ... to the west coast of Thailand a
  • by zxSpectrum (129457) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:15AM (#11184768) Homepage Journal

    I keep a list of earthquake related resources [virtuelvis.com].

  • by RefuX (315582) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:17AM (#11184774)
    Yeah my brother and wife (John and Brigette) are currently in Thailand and were planning to dive today... unfortunatly I have no idea where in Thailand they are....

    He hasn't cotacted me yet, but even if he wanted to I doubt he could.

    Fingers crossed!

    p.s. The British Foreign office have set up an emergency help line: 0207 008 0000, I havn't been able to get through yet, its really busy.
    • My cousin is currently on Koh-Phangan Island, but it is on the northern coast of Thailand and the wave hit the southern coast. More information : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4125 847.stm
    • As you quote a UK help line, I guess you are UK based so you have GSM phones.If your brother has a mobile then he may be able to at least SMS even if he can't call. Phuket (and surrounding islands) is the main diving location but although it is badly damaged, there seem to be fewer deaths.

      Good luck!

    • An acquaintance lives & works on the Island of Phuket (yes, a lucky bastard), his shell access from his home to the xs4all.nl server in Amsterdam never went down.
      He has already posted some pictures online.

      Therefore I imagine that an internet shop would be the best bet to call home.

      The government numbers are only pacifiers until the affected people themselves contact their home authorities, which is obviously not their first priority...

  • According to the helpful earthquake hazard folks over at USGS [usgs.gov], the epicenter coordinates were 3.30 N 95.78 E, with a depth of about 10km. There are quite a lot of other entries in that region since, some or all of which may be aftershocks.

    (A friend in Madras mentioned the quake as soon as he felt it; I've since seen the estimates go from 650 dead to 1500, 3000, 4500, 6300, and now 7000.)

  • by Macfox (50100) *
    Does anyone have links to videos of the event?

    Tried Reuters, but there's not much to see.
  • by fbjon (692006) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:26AM (#11184821) Homepage Journal
    And it was around 3200 just a few hours ago. Here's the Reuters [reuters.co.uk] article. Watching BBC world, it appears that some northern areas of Sumatra still can't be reached, and the situation there is unknown. Here's a map of the affected area. [bbc.co.uk]

    It seems that a displacement in the sea bottom ocurred, moving 10-30 metres up along a rupture of 1000 km, causing a wave of hundreds of cubic kilometres of ocean water [bbc.co.uk].

  • Latest News ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by sunsrin (842762) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:29AM (#11184834) Homepage
    You can find the latest news at http://news.google.co.in [google.co.in] (The Indian Version of Google News )
  • Tsunami (Score:4, Informative)

    by sunsrin (842762) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:34AM (#11184857) Homepage
    More on Tsunami at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
  • I have to ponder as to what kinds of technology could have made the impact from this disaster less horrendous than it was. Better monitoring for earthquakes, better medical care and better building materials for houses and such are some immediate things, although the latter two has more to do with socio-economic status than anything else.

    I'm thinking of keeping things relatively cheap, yet as functional as possible.

    • Not much really. The 2 richest countries on earth are both affected by earthquakes, and have invested heavily in the area of earthquake prediction(esp. Japan), and yet do not have very accurate earthquake prediction technologies. It may be possible, but not for a long, long while. Now technology for disaster relief is a different story, but for the time being cheap accurate earthquake prediction is a pipe dream.....
    • IMO, it's not so much technology that's the solution, as improved practices and policies.

      For example, it's generally not the greatest idea to build right by the ocean. This is true just about anywhere - on the eastern coast of North America, beachfront houses get nailed by hurricanes; here in Hawaii we get the occasional tsunami; just about anywhere there are issues of erosion and at times high surf.

      If you're somewhere - or across the water from somewhere - with seismic activity that can trigger tsun

    • by The Cydonian (603441) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @12:16PM (#11185106) Homepage Journal
      Two things:-

      a) Disaster management techniques: We in India need better processes in managing relief work after disaster has struck; compared to first-world standards, we're woefully under-equipped in terms of emergency medicine and an infrastructure that can rescue people within, say, two hours of something striking. Perhaps a volunteer force or something; we really can't be falling back on the Army each time shit happens.

      b) (My personal favourite) A redundant communication network: More ham radios/VSAT terminals/whatever throughout the nation. Cheap and requires more of a community participation than governmental intervention (which (a) would need).

  • Full Moon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shag (3737) * on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:34AM (#11184862) Homepage
    Of course, this all happening at full moon will probably fuel the people who study [indiana.edu] whether the gravitational pull of the sun and moon impacts the occurrence of earthquakes like it does tides.
  • Energy release (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SteveAstro (209000) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:35AM (#11184866)
    Can anyone put some kind of comparision between the energy release here and the energy release of the prospective planet impactor 2004MN4 ? It would help to put things into scale, if not perspective.

    If MN4 were to hit, estimated release is 450-2000 MT of TNT, so how does a Richter 8.9 compare.

    Steve
  • by Xpilot (117961) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:36AM (#11184875) Homepage
    I'm on an island right next to Sumatra (relatively), and there were huge tsunami's hitting us too. The last I heard 15 people died in the floods. It's not as bad as what people in Sri Lanka and India experienced, but still...

    My mom felt the quake at around 9, I didn't notice anything though. I'm very thankful Malaysia is relatively safe from quakes, but I feel so sorry for all who were affected.

  • by ashwinds (743227) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:39AM (#11184890)
    I live quiet close to the shore in Besant Nagar- we got off easy - but it was awesome (not as in exciting but leave your mouth open gaping awesome) to see the sea swell up and eat up the shoreline. I was just driving past and saw a boat go up and down about 20-30 feet from the road!! I parked the car, grabbed the camera - but by then the sea had receded - but that was enough to cause serious damage to the hutments close to the sea. We had mild tremor to start the day - barely noticeable at around 6.30 AM - i looked up the internet and found Tibet post of USGS registering a 8.9 quake at Sumatra -looking at the map I thought to myself - all thats in the line between Sumatra and Chennai is the sea (and of course teeny weeny Andaman). Went out for Breakfast and on my return - this. Its unforgettable and cannot be described. Most of India's coast is devastated - I hear Sri Lanka, Maldives etc are pretty bad too. The Quake here was nothing - a mild shake at best - but the Tsunami that followed was something else Apologies for the verbose post - but I am struggling for words to tell what happened.
  • Live Indian News .. (Score:2, Informative)

    by sunsrin (842762)
    You can watch live Indian News at http://www.ddinews.com [164.100.51.209]. I hope they can handle the Slashdot effect :(
  • by angkor (173812) <http://2bangkok.com/> on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:48AM (#11184947) Homepage
    My site has been following this story since I first felt the temor in Bangkok this morning: http://2bangkok.com/quakes.shtml#quake [2bangkok.com]
  • Creepy... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @11:51AM (#11184964) Homepage
    ..I saw Phi Phi was hit hard. I've been there, and I understand why. It is shaped like a concave lens with the settlement in the bays on either side. The "ends" of the island are pretty tall with jungle and all, but inbetween, where all the people are it is maybe 2m above sea level. The floodwave sounded big enough that it'd pass straight *across* the island. I expect the cabins we used to rent are leveled to the ground.
    .__
    <..> <-- high ground
    .\/
    .|| <-- people, low ground
    ./\
    <__> <-- high ground

    Dots to avoid anti-ascii art crap :p
    It always feels so much more personal when you've been there. I don't think the odds are any different if you've been in one place or traveling the world, but it is always creepy to know "I've been there. That could have been me there."

    Kjella
    • Re:Creepy... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by X86Daddy (446356)
      I was snorkeling at Phi Phi just a few weeks ago. And I stayed at the Holiday Inn resort on Patong beach... just a couple blocks from the Zen sushi restaurant in this AP photo [myway.com]. I agree that it is a very odd "I was just there" sensation. Especially since my thoughts while there centered on how it is such a nice and relaxing place to live. My thoughts turn to the boat captains, the receptionists, the nice guard at the hotel, the watresses at the Todai down the street, the metal sculpter I bought a bea
  • by EqualSlash (690076) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @12:01PM (#11185022)

    I live in Chennai(Madras) [wikipedia.org],(Capital City of the State Tamil Nadu [wikipedia.org] - the region worst affected by the Tsunami in India ). For us, this is the first time ever something like a Tsunami hits our coast. The earthquake itself was not deadly but the tides alone were responsible for the death of more than 1000 people according to some reports. Since this happened early in the morning and the day being a sunday, not many people were awake at that time. In my city alone almost 100 poor fishermen who live in the huts along the seashore were washed away. Coastal regions in the Southern parts of my state where even more affected - a lot many were drowned in the flash floods. The fact that I was sleeping unaware of the whole thing at that time, less than a kilometre away from the sea, sends a shiver down my spine.
    You can find some pictures here [sify.com].
  • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Sunday December 26, 2004 @12:08PM (#11185059) Journal
    I saw this in the news last night and the death estimates where ludicrously low. This always seems to be the case for these types of events, while death estimates in Western countries always seem to start on the high side and trend down. I'm not sure why this should be. I understand that some less powerful countries (or more centrally controlled) always want to put the best spin on things, but during disasters it always ends up sounding like a Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition routine. Since this type of news is certain to get out, why delay it? Perhaps it is not purposely delayed in this case, but one certainly sees this happening often in other parts of the world. Granted downed communication networks make getting precise news hard (impossible), but perhaps I have already answered my own question. Maybe it's not so much about owning up to a terrible human tragedy, but an unwillingness of admitting not having the technology and infrastructure to make better estimates.

    I've heard no word in the news about Arthur C. Clark. While thousands are dead, he likely has a sturdy structure to live in, and it would be unlikely statistically he perished. Has as been posted though, he lives on the coast so really stating any odds would be hard. I hope he is alive, but only to the extent I wish anyone life and happiness. He has lived a full life, and should he be gone our concern should be with the living. Ironically should he have perished, it would probably inspire more aid for those left alive.

    Hopefully the now approximately 6000 estimate wont climb much higher, but if the past is any guide expect this to grow at least past 20,000.

    BTW is it just me, or does it seem in poor taste for News outlets like FOX and CNN to focus on possible American casualties when these kind of natural disasters happen? I can understand this in the case of Attacks and Bombings, since Americans could be the targets. But with thousands dead, the news agencies are scrambling to find out if one or two Americans snuffed it.

    • by Rob Carr (780861) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @12:25PM (#11185166) Homepage Journal
      BTW is it just me, or does it seem in poor taste for News outlets like FOX and CNN to focus on possible American casualties when these kind of natural disasters happen?

      For some reason, the human mind categorizes things according to how the object is related to the individual. If something is near, it's far more impactful than if something is far away. If you can see it, it has more impact than if you can't. If you are somehow related to the individual, the event makes a greater impression.

      News organizations know this. By focusing on some aspect that relates to their viewers, they're more likely to draw in the viewer's interest.

      Look at the readers of Slashdot. They immediately related to Arthur C. Clarke living in the area. It's how our brains work.

      As far as numbers, on a cognitive level, we all know that 7000 is larger than 3000 is larger than 10. But our brains don't really grasp numbers over 7 too well. We might have a general feel for 100, and there's some indication that the largest natural human groups wind up around 160 or so. Beyond that, we don't connect to the numbers on a primative level. It's just big numbers.

      As a human, it helps if you understand how your brain works, so that you can compensate.

      Me? I like to snorkel. Reading about the scuba divers that probably got wiped out caught my attention. Through those scuba divers, my brain can now emotionally link to the tragedy. Stupid, but it works.

      You think MS Windows is buggy? Look at the home-grown software your brain's running.

  • by Devar (312672) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @12:12PM (#11185084) Homepage Journal
    What is interesting is that there was another quake on the 24th of 8.1 off the coast of Tasmania, the other side of the continential plate that caused this one ( AFAIK). That end of the plate gave way and that affected this one? A warning? I don't know, but it might have been related.


    Massive earthquake felt in Tasmania [theage.com.au]
    December 24, 2004 - 7:55AM

    The world's biggest earthquake in almost four years has struck 800 km
    off the coast of Tasmania, Australian seismological officials said.

    Geoscience Australia said the quake, measuring 8.1 on the Richter Scale
    hit the Macquarie Rise, in the Pacific Ocean, at 1.59am. [...]
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @12:16PM (#11185113)
    This is an astounding loss of life, and a healthy fraction of the posts are just evil. If this is what slashdot has come to, prejudice, intolerance and ill-will for those that have suffered, I'm outta here. These are your brethren. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts that have been hit by an unannounced, unpreventable, and unknowable tragedy. I'm appalled.
  • by tehanu (682528) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @12:30PM (#11185188)

    I'm curious as to why a similar magnitude earthquake, also in the ocean, occurring off the coast of Australia shortly before this earthquake didn't cause a tsunami as well?

    News about this earthquake here: http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,11 778537%255E3462,00.html [news.com.au]

    Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but I'm curious as to what the differentiating factor is between these two earthquakes which means one creates a tsunami and the other doesn't.

  • by Vryl (31994) on Sunday December 26, 2004 @02:14PM (#11185638) Journal
    Various bits of the net are hard to get at right now (from Oz, that is ...).

    Wondering if the quake has caused any probs ... anyone heard any reports?
  • by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Sunday December 26, 2004 @08:01PM (#11187534) Journal
    This is truly a sad day for all of humanity. 11,000 people is a huge incredible loss of life. We can talk about the science behind tsunamis all day long, but let's all take a moment to pray for the victims of this catastrophe. Keep in mind that it's not just 11,000 dead, but it's millions homeless, without clean water or food, or a place to live.

    If you can, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give some money to one of the many relief organizations that is working to help feed and shelter people in the affected zones. I am sure the International Red Cross would be a good place to start.
  • by rduke15 (721841) <rduke15NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday December 26, 2004 @09:29PM (#11188117)
    This report [noaa.gov] (reproduced below) from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center [noaa.gov] sounds weird when you know how terrible the Tsunami was on the other side.

    Basically, it says "THERE IS NO TSUNAMI WARNING OR WATCH IN EFFECT.".

    Yes, of course, there was no tsunami in the region this warning center is responsible for. But who writes these reports? Is it sensible to just write "no tsunami warning", without specifying that it's a different story on the other side, in the Indian ocean? Wouldn't people writing these reports be supposed to be aware of it?

    Anyway, that report, while it may be technically correct for it's region, sounds really weird to me.

    Since the link is for the "latest report", and will change over time, here is the complete text of that page:
    TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 002
    PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS
    ISSUED AT 0204Z 26 DEC 2004

    THIS BULLETIN IS FOR ALL AREAS OF THE PACIFIC BASIN EXCEPT
    ALASKA - BRITISH COLUMBIA - WASHINGTON - OREGON - CALIFORNIA.

    .................. TSUNAMI INFORMATION BULLETIN ..................

    ATTENTION: NOTE REVISED MAGNITUDE.

    THIS MESSAGE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. THERE IS NO TSUNAMI WARNING
    OR WATCH IN EFFECT.

    AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS

    ORIGIN TIME - 0059Z 26 DEC 2004
    COORDINATES - 3.4 NORTH 95.7 EAST
    LOCATION - OFF W COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATERA
    MAGNITUDE - 8.5

    EVALUATION
    REVISED MAGNITUDE BASED ON ANALYSIS OF MANTLE WAVES.
    THIS EARTHQUAKE IS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE PACIFIC. NO DESTRUCTIVE
    TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS FOR THE PACIFIC BASIN BASED ON HISTORICAL
    EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA.

    THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF A TSUNAMI NEAR THE EPICENTER.

    THIS WILL BE THE ONLY BULLETIN ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS
    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE.

    THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE BULLETINS
    FOR ALASKA - BRITISH COLUMBIA - WASHINGTON - OREGON - CALIFORNIA.

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