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Tsunami Wave Approaching the Shore – Voice of Zion


The BibleSearchers Reflections

Reflections on the Time of the End

By Robert Mock MD


Gleanings on Global News at the

Time of the End

January 2005 Special Edition Issue


Signs at the Time of the End



The God of Israel and the Great Tsunami

The Great Indonesian Quake and Tsunami

The Geological Study of the 2004 Sumatra Quake

History of Preceding Large Quakes to the Indonesian Sumatra Quake

Detection of a Major Catastrophe

Jewish Rabbinic Response to the Earthquake

The Day the Earth Shrugged and Groaned

World Response to the Indonesian Tsunami


The God of Israel and the Great Tsunami


It all began on the weekend of December 26, 2004. In the early morning the coolness of the day produces the pleasure of being close to God’s nature.  People were walking along the beach, children playing along the lapping waves when the tides suddenly moved out.  The children followed the retreating tides lines eager to pick up shells that were left behind and unaware of the disaster that lay ahead of them.  The foundations of the earth went into spasms and all the seismographs around the world recorded the convulsions


Live International Seismographs of the Indonesian Earthquake – December 26 (21:40:57)

- By the United States Geological Survey (USGS)


A 9.0 magnitude earthquake, known to seismologists as a “megathrust”, shook the tectonic plates near the archipelago of 17,000 islands of Indonesia and 155 miles south of the city of Bandah Aceh on the northern tip of the western shoreline of Sumatra.  Five miles below the Indian Ocean the edges of three continental tectonic plates along with the Indian and Australian plates slowly grind along a subduction zone against the Burma plate. There they overlap and thrust above and below each other.  In a long 745 mile fault line running north and south west of Indonesia, the Indian plate dives below the Burma plate and the Sunda Trench marks where the Indian plate descends into the hot mantle of the earth’s molten interior inferno.  Here one of the biggest earthquakes in the Indian-Asia hemisphere in the past 200 years began to convulse the entire planet earth.  An 8.0 earthquake rocked this area in the year 2000, preceded by giant quakes in 1797, 1833 and 1861.  Yet this quake released 31 times more energy than the 2000 quake.


The mass of water displaced by the tectonic plates sent a mega tsunamis racing along the ocean floor of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean faster than an airliner streaks across the sky. Chaos, havoc and destruction soon wrecked its deadly toll along elite seacoast resorts where the beautiful people of the six continents were basking in the sun.  There with the local native communities from Indonesia to Somalia in Eastern Africa, their lives were obliterated.  A sixty five wall of water struck Indonesia while waves thirty feet high rolled over like a freight train unto the shorelines of Sri Lanka more than a 1000 miles from the earthquake.  The energy displacement caused the oceans to rise halfway around the world where in Manzanilla, Mexico, the waves rose up more than eight feet.  Yet here was the shocker. While hundreds of thousands of humans were killed, no animal bodies were recovered in the debris.  Along with the primitive natives whose eyes and ears are sensitive to the changes in nature, they all make a quick retreat to the inner highlands along the coast. 


Asian Tsunami Satellite Imagery

– By Global


Tsunamis occur frequently in the Pacific basin where the “Ring of Fire” drapes over the globe like a necklace on a beautiful figure. Here the most active tectonic spots on the globe are in constant motion.  Yet the quietness of the Indian Ocean was deceiving.  In a world used to the placid calmness of uniform changes in nature, the “mega-disaster” of a million atomic bombs made the fear of human terrorism appeared like child’s play.  Not since the region exploded with the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 has a tsunami been recorded in the Indian Ocean.  This rogue catastrophe created fear in every coastal inhabitant from New York, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires to Tokyo, San Francisco and Hong Kong where 80% of the populations of the earth live.  The monster of the deep may any second crush out their lives without warning.  


This planet earth wobbled on its axis, the pole migrated or tilted on its axis over an inch and the rotation of the earth sped up 3 microseconds.  Even a nuclear submarine of the United States hitting an undersea mountain highlighted that all the sea lanes in the regions, where the massive oil tankers ply the waters from one continent to another, were vulnerable to a potential mega-environmental disaster if a tanker hull plying one hundred feet into the ocean were to rip apart from the catastrophic changes in the shifting ocean floors. 


The islands surrounding Indonesia “were moved out of place” very similar to a future greater earthquake that will affect the whole earth as revealed in the 6th Seal of Revelation. 


Revelation 6:12-17 - And I looked and He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood; and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs, when it is shaken by a mighty wind.


And the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its placeAnd the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, and every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?


The realization that is casting a pall across the face of the earth is that something different is happening to our globe and no one seems to have an answer.  In an era in which all nature appears to be going awry, the confidence of weather forecasting is shattered by aberrant hurricanes wandering over one state in America, the highest temperature in 500 years in Europe, mega tornados in mid-America, the mighty ice shelves of the Antarctica collapsing, the glaciers in the Artic retreating, the unexplained phenomenon of the darkness of the Artic glowing like the breaking of a new day, the increased temperature of the central Pacific of 2-4 degrees causing 100 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains and mud slides and collapsing homes in San Bernardino County in California, we have to ask, “Is the Eternal One of Israel saying something to us?”  Are these aberrant and unusual catastrophic changes in a uniform world?  Is this planet flinging through the darkness of the solar system guided by the finger of the Divine or is it home alone as it careens through outer space?


Once more we hear the words of the ancient prophets of Israel ringing in our ears,


Haggai 2:6 – “For thus says the Lord of hosts, Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.”


It is easy for many to believe that the forces of nature reveal the nature of the God of Israel.  Yet where was the Eternal One of Israel when the convulsion of the deep sent a shock wave to the distant lands?  As a geologist patient of mine, who analyzes the deep earth sounding on the crust of the earth, said to me, “What happened in Indonesia has been part of the formation of this earth for millions of years. Is happened and it will happen again!  Oh, yes, this may not be the most catastrophic earthquake and tsunami to hit this earth but the question still begs an answer, “Did an absentee God let this earth hiccough on its own?  Was the Lord of hosts rather sending a message to this planet earth? 


Revelation 14:7 - “Fear God and give glory to Him for the hour of His judgment is come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”!” 


If the Lord of hosts wanted to communicate to the inhabitants on this planet, how would He do it?  He sent the Torah and we believe it not.  He sent the prophets of Judah and Israel and let the children of Israel be blessed or cursed depending on their responses to His word so we could see the consequences.  Yet today, we blame Israel rather than believing that the God of Israel will do what He states He will do whether or not we will believe in Him.  He sent down His only Son who affirmed the prophets of old and their apocalyptic vision and we still believe Him not.   


Yet many others believing in a God of Love are uncomfortable that a loving God would marshal the forces of tectonic destruction upon the people of this earth.  Yet what choice does a loving God have in a world where power, greed and control is reining its evil hand over the face of the earth.  Europe today is virtually God-less today. America is quickly erasing any images or written portrayals of the Divine from its institutions of justice. The apostate Christian church is completing its bid for global dominion. The “Protest”ant Church no longer are protesting.  They are flocking as fast as they can back to the fold of apostate Christianity.  Neither are they obeying the call of the Lord of hosts,


Maybe we want the Eternal One of Israel to proclaim in a loud thundering voice from heaven that will be heard in the 70 languages on this earth?  Maybe He should sent a host of angels to the geopolitical power center on this earth. Maybe He should sent His own archangels!  Maybe He will.


Revelation 18:4 - “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her my people, lest you receive of her plagues.  For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” 


Consider the fact that there is so much evil in the hearts of man today that we do not need a Satan.  Leave man to his own devices and this earth will surely be consumed and destroyed. The goodness of man seen on this earth does not come from the abundance of righteousness inherent in our own hearts but rather there are a few people who are still listening for the “still small voice” of God. The Lord of hosts desires that all men should be saved but it was Yahshua (Jesus) who stated, “Many are called but few are chosen. “ Why?  Because only a few hear the voice of the Lord and are willing like Isaiah who said, “Here am I, oh Lord, send me.” 


Maybe we should reconsider that the Eternal One of Israel is truly sovereign over the entire Universe.  The fact that the laws of nature appear stable and we feel protected only suggests that over the centuries the Lord of the Universe has been holding this planet in the palm of His hand.  Withdraw that Hand of divine protection and the evil acts of man will suffocate this planet and the natural laws of the universe will be thrown awry.  If the prophet of Revelation is to be believed, the Lord of hosts will withdraw His protective influence from this earth until His remnant will ‘cry upon His Name’ and the inhabitants who choose to harbor the forces of evil will harden their hearts till every spark of the divine touch will be extracted from their soul. Only when the polarity between the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’ appears as stark as ‘night and day’ will the Moschiach (Messiah) of Israel come to claim His own. (Click to Open “Signs at the Time of the End”)


Links to

Israel, Tikkun Olam and the Tsunami

After Disaster

Reacting to the Tsunami


The Great Indonesian Quake and Tsunami


Isaiah 45:7 God says “I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.”


Asian Tsunami Kills 12,300, Many More Homeless – December 26, 2004

Christian NewsCOLOMBO (Reuters) - More than 12,300 people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless after a powerful undersea earthquake unleashed giant tsunami waves that crashed into the coasts of south and southeast Asia. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck off the Indonesian island of Sumatra early on Sunday was the biggest in 40 years. It triggered waves that reared up into walls of water as high as 10 meters (30 feet) as they hit coastlines in Indonesia, Sri Lanka,


India and Thailand.


Aid agencies rushed staff, equipment and money to the region, warning that bodies rotting in the water were already beginning to threaten the water supply for survivors. Rescue workers also spoke of bodies still caught up on trees after being flung inland by the waves. "I just couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes," Boree Carlsson said from a hotel in the Thai resort of Phuket. "As I was standing there, a car actually floated into the lobby and overturned because the current was so strong," said the 45-year-old Swede.


"I heard an eerie sound that I have never heard before. It was a high pitched sound followed by a deafening roar," said a 55-year-old Indian fishermen who gave his name as Chellappa. "I told everyone to run for their life." In Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, one official said nearly 4,500 people had died. The worst affected area was Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, where 3,000 were killed. More than 200 prisoners escaped from a jail when the tsunami knocked down its walls. In Sri Lanka, the death toll also reached 4,500 and 1 million people, or 5 percent of its population, were affected. It was the worst natural disaster to hit Sri Lanka. Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans sheltered in schools and temples overnight, and officials expected the death toll to rise further once rescuers resumed searches after daybreak. In southern India, where at least 3,000 were estimated to have died, beaches were littered with submerged cars and wrecked boats. Shanties on the coast were under water. Thai government officials said at least 392 bodies had been retrieved and they expected the final toll to approach 1,000.




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 and Malaysia," he said. "You can walk inland for 15 minutes to get to a safe area." "We tried to do what we could," he said. "We don't have contacts in our address book for anybody in that part of the world."


The earthquake, of magnitude 8.9 as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey (news - web sites), struck at 7:59 a.m. (1959 EST). It was the world's biggest since 1964, said Julie Martinez at the USGS (news - web sites). The tsunami was so powerful it smashed boats and flooded areas along the east African coast, 3,728 miles away. In the Maldives, where thousands of foreign visitors were holidaying in the beach paradise, damage appeared to be significantly more limited, according to initial reports. Twenty-eight people were estimated to have died in Malaysia and 10 in Myanmar.




Aid agencies said with communications cut to remote areas, it was impossible to assess the full scale of the disaster. The Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was seeking 7.5 million Swiss francs ($6.5 million) for emergency aid funding. The United States said it would offer "all appropriate assistance," while the European Union (news - web sites) pledged an initial three million euros ($4 million). Experts said the top five areas to be addressed were water, sanitation, food, shelter and health. "We've had reports already from the south of India of bodies rotting where they have fallen and that will immediately affect the water supply especially for the most impoverished people," Christian Aid emergency officer Dominic Nutt said.  A tsunami, a Japanese word that translates as "harbor wave," is usually caused by a sudden rise or fall of part of the earth's crust under or near the ocean. It is not a single wave, but a series of waves that can travel across the ocean at speeds of more than 500 miles an hour. As the tsunami enters the shallows of coastlines in its path, its velocity slows but its height increases. A tsunami that is just a few centimeters or meters high from trough to crest can rear up to heights of 100 to 150 feet as it hits the shore, striking with devastating force. (Read Entire Article)


Indonesia Needs Help, Death Toll Expected To Exceed 400,000 – December 30, 2004

KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) -- The death toll in Acheh, the region worst hit by last Sunday's tsunami, may exceed 400,000 as many affected areas could still not be reached for search and rescue operations, Indonesia's Ambassador to Malaysia Drs H. Rusdihardjo said Thursday. He said the estimate was based on air surveillance by Indonesian authorities who found no signs of life in places like Meulaboh, Pulau Simeulue and Tapak Tuan while several islands off the west coast of Sumatra had "disappeared".

He said the latest death toll of more than 40,000 in Acheh and northern Sumatra did not take into account the figures from the other areas, especially in the west of the region. "Aerial surveillance found the town of Meulaboh completely destroyed with only one building standing. The building, which belonged to the military, happens to be on a hill," he told reporters after receiving RM1 million in aid for Indonesia's Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund here Thursday. Rusdihardjo said there were about 150,000 residents in Meulaboh, which was located 150km from the epicentre of the earthquake while Pulau Simeuleu had a population of 76,000.
(Read Article in Full)


Politics and 'acts of God' – January 13, 2005

Washington Times - George W. Bush and the Asian tsunami have put religion back on the front page. Exit polls revealed that a majority of religious folk voted to re-elect the president; after tens of thousands died under the waves, millions turned to religion for answers to the question that men and women have asked wise men for millennia.

A headline in the New York Observer puts it bluntly: "Disaster Ignites Debate: 'Was God in the Tsunami?'  If so, how can such things happen? If not, how can such things happen?  Some of the answers seek to exploit tragedy. Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin reports that one Palestinian imam told his congregation that the tsunami was the result of "Jewish American corruption and destruction." Other imams blamed Christians.

Every Sunday-school scholar is familiar with the teaching that God rewards righteousness, as seen in the flood that spared Noah, the endless suffering of Job, the New Testament presentation of the Gospel. But skeptics have forever mocked religious exhortations in politics and religious explanations of natural disasters. After the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, Voltaire's Candide ridiculed the idea that "this is the best of all possible worlds." Marx jeered that religion was "the opium of the people," and Freud suggested that neurotics sought a "Heavenly father" as protector to replace the biological father.

But religious faith thrives. "Almost everywhere you look around the world, with the glaring exception of Western Europe, religion is now a rising force," reports the New York Times. "The tsunami in Asia could spur religious revival as well, as victims and onlookers turn to mosques, temples and churches both to help them fathom the catastrophe and to provide humanitarian assistance."

In Washington, humanitarian assistance is discussed in pragmatic terms, suggesting (probably a triumph of hope over actual expectation) that our generosity will show Muslims, whose radical extremists seek to persuade with terrorism, that Christians and Jews are not so bad, after all. But generosity needs no political analysis. You don't have to be religious to be charitable to the victims of "acts of God," but it's the religious impulse that has guided American idealism and benevolence through our finest hours. G.K. Chesterton, the English writer, called America "the nation with the soul of a church."  David Gelernter, writing in Commentary magazine, demonstrates how American democracy was built on a Biblical foundation. "The Bible is not merely the fertile soil that brought Americanism birth. It is the energy source that makes it live and thrive; that makes believing Americans willing to prescribe freedom, equality, and democracy even for a place like Afghanistan, once regarded as perhaps the remotest region on the face of the globe."

American history is rich in allusions to America as the New Eden, as if we are a chosen people fulfilling biblical destiny in the New World. Presidential inaugural speeches abound with biblical phrases and references that are not meant solely for inspiration, though they are that, but to embody the driving force for spreading American values of democracy. Abraham Lincoln called us God's "almost chosen people." In his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said our revolutionary beliefs "come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God."  Abraham Lincoln never joined a church, but said he would if he could find one with a creed fulfilling "what our Lord said were the two great commandments, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and mind and soul and strength, and my neighbor as myself."  Woodrow Wilson, the son and grandson of Presbyterian ministers, sounded in his inaugural like a Biblical prophet, albeit with more optimism than most: "The feelings with which we face this new age of right and opportunity sweep across our heartstrings, like some air out of God's own presence, where justice and mercy are reconciled and the judge and the brother are one."

Americans are firm in their belief in the separation of church and state, so that men and women of different faiths and of no faith are equal before the law. Anyone who talks to President Bush, a born-again Methodist, hears this echoed today. "The president's job is not to pick a religion," he told me this week in an interview in the Oval Office. "The president's job is not to say you've got to be religious. The president's job is to say you're free to choose. It's very important for that to be even clearer today, given the world in which we live. If you're a Sikh or a Muslim you're equally an American as if you're a Methodist -- or anyone else."   Harry Truman, a plain-spoken Baptist, captured in his memoirs the firm belief of most of us: "What came about in 1776 really had its beginning in Hebrew times." (Article)


The world of uniformitarianism is about over. The future era of catastrophic changes as predicted in Revelation is unfolding before our eyes.  The tectonic plates beneath the outer mantle of our planet are being stressed by the increased magma flowed erupting from the molten iron core of the earth.  The gyroscopic core of the earth is rotating on a fixed axis, but the shifting volcanic-like upheavals of the magma that circulates around this core, called the magma convection system is causing the weight of the earth to shift and create a wobble.  It is also causing the magma to hit the underside of the outer mantle of this earth creating stresses that this earth has not experienced in the recent historical history.  


What are the implications?  The balance of the earth’s rotation is changing.  As the earth begins to wobble more, the imbalance will increase and eventually the mantle of this earth will break loose and slide several degrees around the coreStrange tremors are now being recorded along fault lines on the earth.  Listening on the deepest levels of the mantle, the rumblings are being recorded.  Even though it has not been documented in recent historical past or even in the distance geological past, when the magma flows shift to a new location, an unstable volcanic hot spot will occur. If it is over an existing fault line, it will be recorded even better.  In the future, we can expect to hear of more deep tremors.  The animals will perceive it before we will and strange phenomenon in the animal kingdom will occur even with our own pets and domesticated livestock. There will be increased earthquake activity along all the major tectonic plate systems on this planet.  Massive earthquakes will strike seismic unstable areas such as California, Japan and Alaska. Is it no wonder that the Indonesian plate shift was preceded by severe seismic activity in Japan?  Will Alaska soon become more vulnerable including the volcanic zones in the Pacific North-west and Yellowstone National Park?


Somewhere in the future we will more than likely experience a geophysical pole-shift.  It this unusual? Yes!  Yet our geological history has proven that it has occurred and ancient Jewish literature has confirmed that on at least one instance, Noah saw a pole shift prior to the arrival of the Noachian Flood.


Jasher -

In the sixth seal, the Book of Revelation predicts that there will be a mighty earthquake that will move “all mountains and all islands”.  Yes this will be a global earthquake such as the Indonesian quake off of Sumatra but will such great intensity that it is said “never before occurred on this earth”




Quake rattled Earth orbit, changed map of Asia: US geophysicist – December 28, 2004

Yahoo - An earthquake that unleashed deadly tidal waves on Asia were so powerful it made the Earth wobble on its axis and permanently altered the regional map, US geophysicists said.  The 9.0-magnitude temblor that struck 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Sumatra island Sunday may have moved small islands as much as 20 meters (66 feet), according to one expert.


AFP Photo


"That earthquake has changed the map," US Geological Survey expert Ken Hudnut told AFP. "Based on seismic modeling, some of the smaller islands off the southwest coast of Sumatra may have moved to the southwest by about 20 meters. That is a lot of slip. "The northwestern tip of the Indonesian territory of Sumatra may also have shifted to the southwest by around 36 meters (120 feet), Hudnut said.


In addition, the energy released as the two sides of the undersea fault slipped against each other made the Earth wobble on its axis, Hudnut said. "We can detect very slight motions of the Earth and I would expect that the Earth wobbled in its orbit when the earthquake occurred due the massive amount of energy exerted and the sudden shift in mass," Hudnut said.


Another USGS research geophysicist agreed that the Earth would have got a "little jog," and that the islands off Sumatra would have been moved by the quake. However, Stuart Sipkin, of the USGS National Earthquake Information Center in Golden Colorado, said it was more likely that the islands off Sumatra had risen higher out of the sea than they had moved laterally. "In this case, the Indian plate dived below the Burma plate, causing uplift, so most of the motion to the islands would have been vertical, not horizontal." The tsunamis unleashed by the fourth-biggest earthquake in a century have left at least 23,675 people dead in eight countries across Asia and as far as Somalia in East Africa.  The tsunamis wiped out entire coastal villages and pulled beach-goers out to sea.  The International Red Cross estimated that up to one million people have been displaced by the natural calamity. (Article)


Quake's power = million atomic bombs? - Like a bulldozer in Sumatra – December 29, 2004

CNN - Scientists describe Sunday's devastating earthquake off the island of Sumatra as a "megathrust" -- a grade reserved for the most powerful shifts in the Earth's crust. The term doesn't entirely capture the awesome power of the fourth largest earthquake since 1900, or the tsunami catastrophes it spawned for coastal areas around the Indian Ocean. Despite its awesome power, the quake itself was not much of a surprise, scientists said Monday.


Sumatra is one of the most earthquake-prone places in the world, sitting atop one of the handful of sites where several plates of the planet's crust overlap and grind. Colossal pressures build up over decades, only to release in a snap. "These subduction zones are where all the world's biggest earthquakes are produced," said geologist Kerry Sieh of the California Institute of Technology. "Sunday was one of the biggest earthquakes in the region in the past 200 years."


How powerful? By some estimates, it was equal to detonating a million atomic bombs.  Sieh and other scientists said it probably jolted the planet's rotation. "It causes the planet to wobble a little bit, but it's not going to turn Earth upside down," Sieh said.


Epicenter: More than 5 miles below ocean


Researchers also speculated on the extent to which the jolt might have changed Sumatra's coastline. Extensive damage and flooding was preventing investigators from immediately reaching the scene.  Beneath the ocean, the flexible edges of the crustal plates might have shifted vertically by as much as 60 feet relative to each other. But even that kind of displacement would lift or lower the Sumatran coast by only a few feet or less, they said, and sea levels would not change dramatically. "Basically, the run up of high tide will be just a little further up or further back," said Paul Earle, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.


But inland, ground levels in northern Sumatra might have changed noticeably in places, Sieh said. "As the block of land on top of subduction zone lurches out west toward the Indian Ocean, you expect that area behind it to sink," he said. Seismologists said the epicenter of Sunday's quake was more than 5.5 miles below the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Sumatra and about 150 miles south of the city of Bandah Aceh on the island's northern tip.  Beneath the ocean floor, the quake occurred along a long north-south fault where the edge of the Indian plate dives below the Burma plate. A sea floor feature known as the Sunda Trench marks where the Indian plate begins its grinding decent into the Earth's hot mantle.


Complicating matters, the edges of three other tectonic plates also bump here, with the Indian and Australian plates slowly sliding northwest relative to the Burma plate.

A magnitude 8.0 earthquake on the island's southern tip was the most deadly tremor of 2000, causing at least 103 fatalities and more than 2,000 injuries. Giant quakes also rocked the area in 1797, 1833 and 1861. But they were preludes to Sunday's event.


Atlantic Ocean landslide speculation


Pressed from many directions, stress built up along the fault line off the Sumatra coast. A north-south fault ruptured along a 745-mile stretch, or about the length of California. It started offshore, then zigzagged inland beneath Sumatra's northern tip and up beneath the Andaman Islands almost to the coast of Myanmar. Similar to quakes on the San Andreas fault in California, the tremor caused one side of the fault to slide past the other. The rupture released energy like shock waves, especially to the east and west.


While ground shaking damaged buildings and roads on Sumatra, the real havoc was caused by large ocean waves in the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean that were displaced by the quake. Known as tsunamis, the waves obliterated seacoast resorts and communities as far away as Somalia in East Africa. By Monday, according to the International Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, some energy from Sunday's waves sifted into the Pacific Basin. At Manzanillo, Mexico, waves rose more than eight feet. Minor fluctuations were reported in New Zealand and Chile, where waves rose between one and two feet. In the United States, Hawaii reported almost no wave changes, while San Diego saw waves rise less than a foot.


Most tsunamis occur in the Pacific basin because it is encircled by the "Ring of Fire," the necklace of the world's most tectonically active spots. Sunday's tsunami in the Indian Ocean was the first in that region since 1883, when the Krakatoa volcano exploded. But rogue waves can rise in any ocean, and Sunday's disaster renewed attention on the vulnerability of major coastal cities like New York City.


In 1999, scientists at University College London reported that if a volcano in the Canary Islands erupted with sufficient force, it could cause a massive landslide on the island of La Palma and trigger tsunami waves in the Atlantic Ocean. They speculated such a landslide would generate a "mega-tsunami" that would inundate the east coast of the United States and the Caribbean with a wall of water more than 164 feet high.


But other researchers in Britain discounted the prediction as the product of a speculative computer model. They said that over the past 200,000 years there had been only two huge landslides on the flanks of the Canary Islands and that there was geologic evidence indicating the slides broke up and fell into the sea in bits instead of one big whoosh.  "If you drop a brick into a bath you get a big splash," Russell Wynn of the Southampton Oceanography Centre said in a statement. "But if you break that brick up into several pieces and drop them in one by one, you get several small splashes." Wynn said a multistage landslide would affect the Canary Islands, but would not generate tsunamis capable of swamping New York. (Article)


Massive Quakes Difficult to Measure – December 27, 2004

NewsDay - Sunday's earthquake in Sumatra had a preliminary magnitude of 9.0, classifying it as a great quake and making it the strongest in 40 years. Earthquakes near the very top of the magnitude scale are difficult for scientists to measure. For one thing, they occur rarely -- once a year or less -- so researchers don't have many chances to analyze them. And, the tools that scientists use to measure movements in the planet's crust are becoming more sophisticated. So the way in which they assign a number to signal an earthquake's fury is evolving.


Today, when seismologists describe an earthquake's magnitude, it is a composite of several types of instruments and equations that calculate several aspects of an earthquake's behavior. The methods started in a more simple way nearly 70 years ago when seismologist Charles Richter of the California Institute of Technology developed his now-familiar Richter scale of earthquake magnitude.


Today, researchers still use its familiar scale. Each whole number represents a tenfold increase in seismic movement and severity. Moderate earthquakes begin at 5.0. Strong earthquakes begin at 6.0 and cause damage even to modern structures. Major earthquakes are rated at 7.0 and higher, causing damage over hundreds of miles. Sunday's quake was the strongest since the 1964 tremor that struck Alaska and measured 9.2. The most powerful earthquake on record was a 9.5 in Chile in 1960. While researchers still use the familiar Richter scale numbers, the equations that go into the original scale are too limited, especially for larger earthquakes and those that extend down faults for hundreds of miles. As a result, researchers have turned to more precise measurements, such as "seismic moment," which quantifies how much energy is released by an earthquake. Because of these uncertainties, scientists may initially estimate an earthquake's magnitude, only to tweak it as more data are available. The U.S. Geological Survey initially said Sunday's quake had a magnitude of 8.1, then revised that to 8.5 and then 8.9 before calling it a 9.0. (Article)


Scientists: Quake may have made Earth wobble – December 29, 2004

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- The deadly Asian earthquake may have permanently accelerated the Earth's rotation, shortening days by a fraction of a second and caused the planet to wobble on its, U.S. scientists said Tuesday.  Richard Gross, a geophysicist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, theorized that a shift of mass toward the Earth's center during the quake Sunday caused the planet to spin 3 microseconds, or millionths of a second, faster and to tilt about an inch on its axis.


Scientists believe that a shift of mass toward the Earth's center during the quake caused the planet to spin 3 microseconds faster and to tilt about an inch on its axis.  When one huge tectonic plate beneath the Indian Ocean was forced below the edge of another "it had the effect of making the Earth more compact and spinning faster," Gross said.  Gross said changes predicted by his model probably are too minuscule to be detected by a global positioning satellite network that routinely measures changes in Earth's spin, but said the data may reveal a slight wobble. The Earth's poles travel a circular path that normally varies by about 33 feet , so an added wobble of an inch is unlikely to cause long-term effects, he said.  "That continual motion is just used to changing," Gross said. "The rotation is not actually that precise. The Earth does slow down and change its rate of rotation."  When those tiny variations accumulate, planetary scientists must add a "leap second" to the end of a year, something that has not been done in many years, Gross said.

Scientists have long theorized that changes on the Earth's surface such as tide and groundwater shifts and weather could affect its spin but they have not had precise measurements to prove it, Caltech seismologist Hiroo Kanamori said.  "Even for a very large event, the effect is very small," Kanamori said. "It's very difficult to change the rotation rate substantially." (Article)


New York might Face Watery End – December 28, 2004

New York Post Online - It hardly raised a ripple when it was reported over the summer, but news that a tsunami could one day hit New York is suddenly getting a second look.  Several months ago, geologists raised concerns that an unstable flank of a volcano in the Canary Islands off the coast of Western Africa could slide into the sea and send giant waves across the Atlantic at the speed of a jumbo jet. Within three hours, the wave could swamp the west coast of Africa. Within five hours, it could hit southern England, and within 12 hours, it could build up enough force to wipe out the U.S. East Coast, including New York, Washington, Boston and Miami, according to a British researcher. "Eventually, the whole rock will collapse into the water, and the collapse will devastate the Atlantic margin," said Bill McGuire, of the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Center. "We need to be out there now looking at when an eruption is likely to happen . . . other wise there will be no time to evacuate major cities." McGuire said close monitoring of the site might give two weeks warning of the disaster. But that was before funding of the seismology project in the region dried up several years ago. Scientists at the time of McGuire's August study paid little attention to the warning, largely because the volcano in question has been dormant since 1971, even though it erupts every 20 to 200 years. (Article)


Mysterious tremors deep beneath the San Andreas Fault – January 6, 2005

The Houston Chronicle - Tremors rock earth deep beneath San Andreas Fault - Puzzling vibrations baffle researchers - Mysterious tremors deep beneath the San Andreas Fault near the quake-prone town of Parkfield are shaking the earth's brittle crust, far below the region where earthquakes normally strike -- and scientists say they can't understand what's happening or what the motions mean.


Seismic researchers are monitoring the strange vibrations closely. But whether the faint underground tremors -- termed "chatter" by some seismologists -- portend an increased likelihood of a major quake in the area is an unsolved puzzle. Robert Nadeau, a geophysicist at the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, has charted more than 110 of the faint vibrations since they were first detected by the lab's High Resolution Seismic Network in Parkfield three years ago. What concerns Nadeau and his colleagues is that the epicenter of the great 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake, whose magnitude has been estimated at 7.8 to 8, was located almost exactly where the deep tremors are now occurring -- beneath the San Luis Obispo County village of Cholame, some 17 miles south of Parkfield.


The episodes of chatter last from four to 20 minutes and are being recorded from as deep as 40 miles beneath the surface -- up to four times the depth of normal earthquakes, which originate in what scientists call the "seismogenic zone." That zone reaches no deeper than 9 or 10 miles below the Earth's surface. What's most striking is that deep tremors like the Cholame series have never been recorded before on a strike-slip fault such as the San Andreas, Nadeau said. "We see this kind of tremor activity inside volcanoes like Mount St. Helens," Nadeau said, "but that's due to the movement of rising magma, and in the tremors we've recorded there's no evidence of volcanism and no seismic waves typical of ordinary earthquakes."


Nadeau and David Dolenc, a graduate student in his lab, are publishing the first report on the mysterious sequence of deep tremors today in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science. They conclude that "future increases in San Andreas Fault tremor activity may signal periods of increased probability for the next large earthquake on the Cholame segment."  The Fort Tejon event rocked the ground violently and ruptured the fault for 225 miles, from northwest of Parkfield to San Bernardino. It was at least as large as the 1906 San Francisco quake. But because the Cholame region was virtually unpopulated at the time, it killed only two people and destroyed only the Tejon Army post, midway along the affected section of the fault. The area is still sparsely populated; Cholame itself boasts only 2,125 inhabitants. But Paso Robles, with a population of more than 25,000, is only 25 miles west of the village -- and it was badly damaged by a magnitude 6.5 quake only a year ago. Scientists have estimated that the Cholame segment of the fault has ruptured in a large quake roughly every 140 years. It is now 148 years since the Fort Tejon event, so the possibility of another one may be steadily increasing, they say.


Similar deep tremors have been detected recently along the coast of the Pacific Northwest, known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone, as well as in Japan -- and there, too, scientists are struggling to understand what their import is. In those areas, giant slabs of the earth's crust are dipping downward and sliding ponderously beneath other great crustal slabs, and scientists believe that fluids -- most likely seabed water saturating the slabs -- are causing the tremors, according to Herbert Dragert of Canada's Geological Survey in British Columbia and Kazushige Obara of Japan's National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention. In an interview, Dragert said the tremors appear to add stress to a major thrust fault in the Puget Sound region, and that scientists in Canada and Washington are trying to determine whether the tremors might "play a significant role in triggering great earthquakes."


In California, the most mystifying feature of the unexplained tremors is that they are occurring right on the deepest part of the San Andreas -- a fault that does not involve subduction or volcanic activity. Instead, two sides of the earth's crust are sliding horizontally past each other in a motion seismologists call "right-lateral strike slip." In an earthquake, that slip can be an abrupt jolt, and in big quakes, a violent one. The tremors are occurring at such great depth, Nadeau said, that they must be at the very bottom of the brittle crust -- where the earth's hot, viscous upper mantle begins -- which has been under stress for millions of years. It's possible that the mantle there resembles something like Silly Putty, Nadeau said, with great chunks of embedded rock grinding against each other. "No one really knows what the tremors mean," said David Schwartz, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park. "As to what they imply for the possibility of some future quake, we can't tell, and right now we can only wait and see." A long-awaited magnitude 6 quake struck Parkfield in September at a depth of about 5 miles. That quake was seen as the latest in a series of quakes that have hit around Parkfield on an average of every 22 years between 1857 and 1966. The Parkfield section of the San Andreas, in southern Monterey County, is the most intensively instrumented seismic danger region in the United States. A borehole 2 miles deep, carrying an array of instruments and called the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth, is to be completed next summer. Whether its instruments solve the mystery of the tremors and determine whether they portend a future Cholame earthquake remains to be seen. (Article)


The markers of a god-less society is that they become lovers of themselves. The implications are also in the ego-centric society we become less perceptive of the natural world around us.  The world tourist vacationers were oblivious to the danger that was looming before their eyes as they walked and bathes in the beaches of the famous resorts.  At the same time, the primitive people, the aboringinal natives in the unexplored regions of remote islands and the animals who are more sensitive to nature were spared.


Endangered tribes in path of tsunami  - Fate of isolated, primitive groups in the balance – December 29, 2004

Manish Swarup / APMSNBC – Rescuers have yet to reach all of the islands in India’s southeastern Andaman and Nicobar Island chain, the home of some of the world’s most isolated and primitive civilizations


In the wake of the tsunami, there was abundant amateur video of the disaster coming from tourist hotspots, like Phuket, Thailand. But some of the villages and islands in the path of the devastating wave are home to primitive tribes and indigenous groups so isolated that contact was only being made on Wednesday, days after the disaster. Anthropologists worry that the tsunami could be the final blow to some cultures that were already thought to be endangered. “My suspicion is that we may be seeing … perhaps as many as three or four different nations (specific indigenous populations) that would be completely wiped out,” says Dr. Rudolph Ryser, chairman of the U.S.-based Center for World Indigenous Studies. He notes that tiny islands that dot the west coast of Sumatra and the east coast of India are so close to the epicenter of the earthquake that they would have been hit within minutes. Many have no high ground to provide refuge. “One question that I’m asking is whether those islands are even there now,” says Ryser.


“The entire geography of some parts of these islands has changed,” said territory police chief S.B. Deol. “Where there was one island before, we now see two. In one place, a tree stands alone in the middle of the ocean.”  Among the places where the toll was especially high was the Andaman and Nicobar island chains. All of the islands in the chain have yet to be visited by rescuers. The territory, stretching north from the earthquake epicenter, is ruled by India, but populated by a variety of distinct tribes. Among them are the Sentinelese, a hunter-gatherer society that has lived in almost complete isolation from modern society on the tiny North Sentinel Island due west of Port Blair, the chain’s capital. Even before the disaster, the population of this Stone-Age tribe, which some anthropologists have called the last undiscovered people, was estimated at only 100-200. They have remained hostile to outside interference, so very little is known about their culture. The Sentinelese are one of the Andaman’s lingering Negrito tribes — peoples who appear more African than Indian and have already dwindled to the edge of extinction. Other shrinking tribes such as the Nicobarese and the Shompens derive from Mongoloid stock, and live primarily in the Nicobar chain.


Surviving on coconuts

On the island of Car Nicobar, dazed Nicobarese tribespeople emerged from the trees as the army pushed into the interior. Andaman and Nicobar administration relief chief Puneel Goel said 6,000 of the 30,000 people living on the island of Car Nicobar, also the site of the air force base, were Staring blankly, drawn, exhausted and barely speaking, they show little emotion or relief at the arrival of the first help after three days of living mainly on coconuts and camping on the tiny island’s only high ground.“Everything is gone. We have nothing left, not even a slipper,” said Nathan, a 56-year-old father of eight. “One in every five inhabitants in the entire Nicobar group of islands is either dead, injured or missing,” said territory police chief S.B. Deol. At least 50,000 people live in the Nicobars, at the southern end of the chain. “The situation in some of the islands we managed to establish contact with is indeed very, very grim. People have been living on coconuts ... and the coconuts are not going to last forever. We need to reach food urgently to these people.”


On the Andaman and Nicobar island of Chowra on Tuesday, rescuers found 500 survivors out of 1,500 residents, the territory’s deputy police chief, C. Vasudeva Rao, told Reuters. “We thought the entire island was washed away. But we found 500 survivors,” he said. No contact has yet been made with two neighboring isles, home to a combined population of 7,000.  “We are fearing the worst in these islands. We have heard nothing from them,” Rao said. “We have no information.”


Little high ground

Most of the Andaman and Nicobar islands are uninhabited, but many of the roughly three dozen have no high ground to escape a tsunami. They are also several days’ sailing from help. The tsunami, triggered by a massive undersea earthquake off nearby Indonesia, has killed tens of thousands of people.  “I would not be at all surprised that we will be on 100,000 (deaths) when we know what has happened on the Andaman and Nicobar islands,” Peter Rees of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in Geneva. Dozens of aftershocks continue to hit the islands. Residents terrified the tremors could trigger more giant waves are living on high ground or sleeping on mattresses in the streets of the capital, Port Blair. (Article)


Arrow-wielding survivors emerge from forestAll 250 members of ancient Jarawa tribe survived tsunamiJanuary 6, 2005

Image: Tribal man aims bow and arrow at helicopter.JIRKATANG, India (AP) – Members of the ancient Jarawa tribe emerged Thursday from their forest habitat for the first time since the Dec. 26 tsunami rocked the isolated Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and in rare interaction with outsiders, said all 250 tribe members survived.


A Sentinel tribal man aims with his bow and arrow at an Indian Coast Guard helicopter as it flies over the island for a survey of the damage caused by the tsunami in India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, on Dec. 28. “We are all safe after the earthquake. We are in the forest in Balughat,” Ashu, an arrow-wielding Jarawa, said in broken Hindi and through an interpreter in a restricted forest area in the northern reaches of South Andaman island.


According to varying estimates, there are only about 400 to 1,000 members alive today from the Jarawas, Great Andamanese, Onges, Sentinelese and Shompens. Some anthropological DNA studies indicate the generations may have spanned back 70,000 years. They originated in Africa and migrated to India through Indonesia, anthropologists say. Seven Jarawa men — wearing only underwear and amulets on their arms — emerged from the forest to meet with government and police officials to say they had all fled to the forest and survived.


‘Sixth sense’ may have saved tribes

Government officials and anthropologists believe that ancient knowledge of the movement of wind, sea and birds may have saved the five indigenous tribes from the tsunami. “They can smell the wind. They can gauge the depth of the sea with the sound of their oars. They have a sixth sense which we don’t possess,” said Ashish Roy, a local environmentalist and lawyer who has called on the courts to protect the tribes by preventing their contact with the outside world. The tribes live the most ancient, nomadic lifestyle known to man, frozen in their Paleolithic past. Many produce fire by rubbing stones, fish and hunt with bow and arrow and live in leaf and straw community huts. And they don’t take kindly to intrusions.


Anil Thapliyal, a commander in the Indian coast guard, said he spotted the lone tribesman on the island of Sentinel, a 23-square-mile key, on Dec. 28. “There was a naked Sentinelese man,” Thapliyal told The Associated Press. “He came out and shot an arrow at the helicopter.” It appears that many tribesman fled the shores well before the waves hit the coast, where they would typically be fishing at this time of year.


After the tsunami, local officials spotted 41 Great Andamanese — out of 43 in a 2001 Indian census — who had fled the submerged portion of their Strait Island. They also reported seeing 73 Onges — out of 98 in the census — who fled to highland forests in Dugong Creek on the Little Andaman island, or Hut Bay, a government anthropologist said. However, the fate of the other tribes won’t be known until officials complete a survey of the remote islands this week, he said. The government reconnaissance mission will also assess how the ecosystem — most crucially, the water sources — has been damaged.


‘Land of the head hunters’

Taking surveys of these people is dangerous work.  The more than 500 islands across a 3,200-square mile chain in the southern reaches of the Bay of Bengal appear at first glance to be a tropical paradise. But even one of the earliest visitors, Marco Polo, called the asuar “the land of the head hunters.” Roman geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus called the Andamans the “islands of the cannibals.”  The Sentinelese are fiercely protective of their coral reef-ringed terrain. They used to shoot arrows at government officials who came ashore and offered gifts of coconuts, fruit and machetes on the beach.


The Jarawas had armed clashes with authorities until the 1990s, killing several police officers. Samir Acharya, head of the independent Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology, said the Jarawas were peaceful until the British, and later the Indians, began encroaching on their territory. British bullets killed thousands of bow-wielding Jarawas in 1859.  Over the past few years, however, relations have improved. The government has banned interaction with the tribes, and even taking their pictures is an offense. Many tribe members have visited Port Blair, capital of the Indian-administered territory, and a few Great Andamanese and Onges work in government offices.


Outsiders are forbidden from interacting with the tribesmen because such contact has led in the past to alcoholism and disease among the islanders, and sexual abuse of local women. “They have often been sexually exploited by influential people — they give the tribal women ... sugar, a gift wrapped in a colored cloth that makes them happy, and that’s it,” said Roy. One of the most celebrated stories of a tribal man straddling both worlds is that of En-Mai, a Jarawa teenager brought to Port Blair in 1996 after he broke his leg. Six months later, he looked like any urban kid, in a T-shirt, denim jeans and a reversed baseball cap. But he is back on his island now, having shunned Western ways. (Article)


Disaster mystery: No dead animals - Sri Lankan wildlife officials stunned by lack of carcasses – December 29, 2004
WorldNetDaily - As the human death toll from Sunday's earthquake and subsequent tsunami continues to skyrocket in Asia, a mystery is unfolding in Sri Lanka. Somehow, the animals survived the disaster. According to reports out of Colombo, Sri Lankan wildlife officials are said to be stunned. "The strange thing is we haven't recorded any dead animals," H.D. Ratnayake, deputy director of the national Wildlife Department, told Reuters. "No elephants are dead, not even a dead hare or rabbit." "I think animals can sense disaster," he added. "They have a sixth sense. They know when things are happening."


The sentiment was echoed by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, whose Jetwing Eco Holidays runs a hotel in the Yala National Park, the country's largest wildlife reserve where hundreds of wild elephants dwell along with some 130 other species. "This is very interesting. I am finding bodies of humans, but I have yet to see a dead animal,'' he told the Associated Press.


Floodwaters reportedly rushed up to two miles inland at the park, where 41 human bodies have been recovered so far, including 13 foreigners, according to Lanka Business Online. Wildlife officers reportedly found a 13-year-old boy yesterday morning, the only survivor of the tsunami at the park. Wildlife Conservation Director General Dayananda Kariyawasam told the paper except for dead fish, no carcasses of animals have been found. The human death toll in Sri Lanka exceeds 21,000. (Article)


Do they know something we don't? - Animals' senses may have helped them survive - January 11, 2005

Boston Globe - Before the devastating wall of water hit a beachfront in Thailand last month, elephants carrying tourists ran for a nearby hill, saving their passengers, according to news reports. At Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, dozens of men, women and children were killed as the lodge was literally flattened, but virtually all the elephants, buffalo and deer survived. In a wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, India, antelope reportedly were seen racing from the coast to the forests 10 minutes before the tsunami hit.


It's too early to know whether these incidents are isolated anecdotes or whether animals were better able to survive the disaster than people. But many animals can hear ultra low frequencies and have a keener awareness of the Earth's vibrations. This probably didn't give animals a "sixth sense" to know that the tsunami was coming. Instead, they may been able to better detect the earthquake that preceded it, said Jan Randall, an animal behaviorist at San Francisco State University. Most people didn't feel the earthquake or suspect the tsunami was coming until they saw the giant waves. For humans, "vision is the first line of communication, then probably sound," Randall said.


Whether animals' sensory abilities helped them to survive may become clearer after the completion of several ongoing assessments. A team from Humane Society International this week has seen animals, like dogs, cats and cattle returning to coastal areas of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after being noticeably absent since the tsunami."The team has no idea where they have been. It's a mystery," said Kelly O'Meara, program manager for the Humane Society. "The animals are in bad shape because they haven't eaten or drunk properly for a few weeks. . . . The situation is very chaotic. No one knows how many animals perished and how many survived."


Jan Vertefeuille, a spokeswoman for the World Wildlife Fund, said that two of the elephants in the Yala park have satellite GPS collars; as soon as it can, her organization plans to retrieve the satellite data and confirm whether the elephants fled to higher ground, and whenIntensely powerful events, like earthquakes, avalanches, volcanic eruptions -- and maybe tsunamis -- produce so-called infrasound or infrasonic sound waves that humans can't hear, but elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, and even pigeons can. It's thought that pigeons use infrasonic sound for navigation, finding their way over water by locking onto beacons of infrasound. Some predators, according to Alfred J. Bedard Jr. of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, may have evolved infrasound detectors to hear the panicked thump of their prey's heart.  The sound of distant thunder is about as close to infrasound as people can hear, said Bedard. Below this lies a threshold where sound passes from hearing to feeling in humans. Mammals sense ground vibrations through special detectors in their joints and feet called pacinian corpuscles.


Humans have these receptors. But, although we can theoretically detect these signals, we are not conscious of them.  "Humans standing on two feet have much less contact with the ground than an animal with four feet," Randall said. "There are stories about native Americans placing their heads on the ground or tracks to listen for approaching horses or trains, and the use of drums to communicate in native cultures, so low-frequency sounds have been used at times as a secondary means of communication." Could humans be trained to tune in to these signals more? "I am sure it would be possible," said Peggy Hill, a biologist at the University of Tulsa. "I guess that people who operate without vision, or possibly hearing, do have a heightened awareness of vibration signals."  Hill said it's possible that the indigenous people living on the small, low-lying Andaman and Nicobar islands off India were able to read the Earth's signals -- in a way that the more modern people missed -- and save themselves from the waves.


According to the Associated Press, members of the ancient Jarawa tribe emerged from the forest Thursday and announced that all 250 of their tribespeople had survived. "We are all safe after the earthquake," a man named Ashu said in broken Hindi through an interpreter. Their survival, Hill stated in an e-mail, "just reinforces my view that we have the capacity to detect these things, but we 'override' the alarm signal as less important than ones coming in from other channels . . . and we depend more on television and the Internet for 'alerts' than we do on our own sensory abilities. "Loss of this sort of information may be one of the costs we are willing to pay for living in modern times." Animals could potentially be used as a low-technology warning system to alert humans when they perceive something we don't. The Chinese have developed a nationwide network to observe animal behavior in the event of a natural disaster, Bedard said. In northeastern China in 1975, unusual animal behavior convinced people to stay outside and therefore survive an earthquake that flattened their homes. But it remains unclear whether it would be practical or useful to set up similar networks elsewhere. "These events are so infrequent that it would be difficult to make reliable predictions about animal behavior that might warn us of such a disaster," Randall said. "Besides, do you really think humans would pay attention?" (Article)


Psalms 93:4-5 - Above the thunder of the mighty waters,

More majestic than the breakers of the sea is Hashem, majestic on high.

Your decrees are indeed enduring; holiness befits Your house, O L-rd, for all times.


The Geological Study of the 2004 Sumatra Quake


Magnitude 9.0 Off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra - Sunday, December 26, 2004 at 00:58:53 UTC

Preliminary Earthquake Report  - U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center  - World Data Center for Seismology, Denver

The devastating megathrust earthquake of December 26, 2004, occurred on the interface of the India and Burma plates and was caused by the release of stresses that develop as the India plate subducts beneath the overriding Burma plate. The India plate begins its descent into the mantle at the Sunda trench, which lies to the west of the earthquake's epicenter. The trench is the surface expression of the plate interface between the Australia and India plates, situated to the southwest of the trench, and the Burma and Sunda plates, situated to the northeast.


In the region of the earthquake, the India plate moves toward the northeast at a rate of about 6 cm/year relative to the Burma plate. This results in oblique convergence at the Sunda trench. The oblique motion is partitioned into thrust-faulting, which occurs on the plate-interface and which involves slip directed perpendicular to the trench, and strike-slip faulting, which occurs several hundred kilometers to the east of the trench and involves slip directed parallel to the trench. The December 26 earthquake occurred as the result of thrust-faulting.


Preliminary locations of larger aftershocks following the megathrust earthquake show that approximately 1200 km of the plate boundary slipped as a result of the earthquake. By comparison with other large megathrust earthquakes, the width of the causative fault-rupture was likely over one-hundred km. From the size of the earthquake, it is likely that the average displacement on the fault plane was about fifteen meters. The sea floor overlying the thrust fault would have been uplifted by several meters as a result of the earthquake. The above estimates of fault-dimensions and displacement will be refined in the near future as the result of detailed analyses of the earthquake waves. The world's largest recorded earthquakes have all been megathrust events, occurring where one tectonic plate subducts beneath another. These include: the magnitude 9.5 1960 Chile earthquake, the magnitude 9.2 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska, earthquake, the magnitude 9.1 1957 Andreanof Islands, Alaska, earthquake, and the magnitude 9.0 1952 Kamchatka earthquake. As with the recent event, megathrust earthquakes often generate large tsunamis that cause damage over a much wider area than is directly affected by ground shaking near the earthquake's rupture. (Entire Article) 


Massive quake hits off Tasmania – December 24, 2004
A MASSIVE earthquake that struck the largely uninhabited area around Macquarie Island in Antarctica early today was felt in Tasmania. The quake hit at 2.58pm GMT Thursday (1.58am AEDT), measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale, the Earth Sciences Observatory in Strasbourg, France said.  The Hong Kong Observatory separately estimated the earthquake's magnitude at 7.8 on the Richter scale, measured at 3.12pm GMT (2.12am AEDT). The observatory determined the epicentre to be over the seas north of Macquarie Island.

Geoscience Australia said the quake had a magnitude of 7.8 and was felt in Hobart and on the Tasmanian Peninsula. “This was an inter-plate earthquake between Indo-Australian and Pacific plates,” seismologist Cvetan Sinadinovski said. “The last earthquake of similar magnitude in the Macquarie Rise region was in 1924.

“Earthquakes of this magnitude can produce localised tsunamis. Although we have no confirmation (of this) at this stage.” The Macquarie archipelago, an Australian territory some 1500km southeast of Tasmania, is the only island group in the world composed entirely of oceanic crust and rocks from the mantle - deep below the earth's surface - according to an Australian Government website. The island group, with mountains rising to 400m above sea level, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 due in part to its unique natural beauty and in part to its diversity in fauna. Its colony of king penguins, numbering around 850,000, is one of the largest in the world. (Article)


Powerful Tremor Jolts Bangladesh – Sunday, December 26, 2004

DHAKA, Bangladesh (FoxNews) -  A powerful earthquake (search) jolted a wide area of Bangladesh on Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, news reports and weather officials said.


The magnitude 7.36 tremor struck the southern port city of Chittagong, according to a statement by the Bangladesh Meteorological Department said. Bangladesh lacks equipment to determine the epicenter of the quake. Media reports said the quake was felt in the central, southern and western parts of the country, including the capital Dhaka. Big quakes are rare in Bangladesh, a delta nation of 140 million people in South Asia. (Article)


Magnitude 8.1 - NORTH OF MACQUARIE ISLAND – December 23, 2004 - UTC Preliminary Earthquake Report
U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center - World Data Center for Seismology, Denver

A great earthquake occurred at 14:59:03 (UTC) on Thursday, December 23, 2004. The magnitude 8.1 event has been located NORTH OF MACQUARIE ISLAND. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)





Small Globe

Small map showing earthquake






Thursday, December 23, 2004 at 14:59:03 (UTC)
= Coordinated Universal Time
Friday, December 24, 2004 at 1:59:03 AM
= local time at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones


50.145°S, 160.365°E


10 km (6.2 miles) set by location program




400 km (250 miles) W of Auckland Island, New Zealand
505 km (315 miles) NNE of Macquarie Island, Australia
1485 km (920 miles) SW of WELLINGTON, New Zealand
1890 km (1170 miles) SSE of CANBERRA, A.C.T., Australia

Location Uncertainty

horizontal +/- 10 km (6.2 miles); depth fixed by location program


Nst=183, Nph=183, Dmin=>999 km, Rmss=1.29 sec, Gp= 25°,
M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=Q



Event ID


Felt Reports

Felt throughout Tasmania, Australia and felt in Southland, West Coast and other parts of the South Island, New Zealand.



Magnitude 9.0 - OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA – December 26, 2004 -  UTCPreliminary Earthquake Report
U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center - World Data Center for Seismology, Denver

A great earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 (UTC) on Sunday, December 26, 2004. The magnitude 9.0 event has been located OFF THE WEST COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)


Small Globe

Small map showing earthquake






Sunday, December 26, 2004 at 00:58:53 (UTC)
= Coordinated Universal Time
Sunday, December 26, 2004 at 7:58:53 AM
= local time at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones


3.316°N, 95.854°E


30 km (18.6 miles) set by location program




250 km (155 miles) SSE of Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
310 km (195 miles) W of Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia
1260 km (780 miles) SSW of BANGKOK, Thailand
1605 km (990 miles) NW of JAKARTA, Java, Indonesia

Location Uncertainty

horizontal +/- 5.6 km (3.5 miles); depth fixed by location program


Nst=276, Nph=276, Dmin=654.9 km, Rmss=1.04 sec, Gp= 29°,
M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=U



Event ID




History of Preceding Large Quakes to the Indonesian Sumatra Quake
SEP 05  10 07 07.8  33.070 N  136.618 E   14 G  7.2  0.9  643  NEAR S. COAST OF WESTERN HONSHU, JAPAN. 
               A local tsunami was generated with a wave height (peak-to-trough) of about 51 cm in Wakayama Prefecture. 
SEP 05  14 57 18.6  33.184 N  137.071 E   10 G  7.4  0.9  594  NEAR THE SOUTH COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. 
               Tsunamis were observed with wave heights of 86 cm at Kushimoto and 56 cm at Owase.
SEP 06  23 29 35.0  33.205 N  137.227 E   10 G  6.7  0.8  478  NEAR THE SOUTH COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. 
OCT 06  14 40 39.9  35.950 N  139.919 E   64 D  5.8  0.8  405  NEAR THE SOUTH COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. 
OCT 15  04 08 50.2  24.530 N  122.694 E   94     6.7  0.9  698  TAIWAN REGION. 
OCT 18  22 11 44.9  25.073 N   99.169 E   30      4.8  0.6   87  YUNNAN, CHINA. mb 4.8 (GS). MS 4.4 (GS). 
OCT 23  08 56 00.8  37.226 N  138.779 E   16 G  6.6  1.1  782  NEAR THE WEST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. 
OCT 27  01 40 50.2  37.284 N  138.885 E   14 D  6.0  0.9  499  NEAR THE WEST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. 
NOV 03  23 57 28.1  37.434 N  138.752 E   10 G  5.1  0.7  193  NEAR THE WEST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. 
NOV 08  02 15 58.8  37.398 N  138.857 E   10 G  5.5  0.7  370  NEAR THE WEST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. 
NOV 09  18 43 07.9  37.378 N  138.804 E    8    5.3  0.8  190  NEAR THE WEST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN. 
NOV 11  21 26 41.1   8.149 S  124.870 E   10 G  7.5  1.1  290  KEPULAUAN ALOR, INDONESIA. 
NOV 26  02 25 03.2   3.613 S  135.387 E   10 G  7.1  1.1  358  PAPUA, INDONESIA. 
NOV 28  18 32 14.1  42.995 N  145.114 E   39 G  7.0  0.8  733  HOKKAIDO, JAPAN REGION. 
A 10 cm tsunami was recorded at 
DEC 01  23 17 21.4   3.692 S  135.522 E   10 G  5.5  1.0   95  PAPUA, INDONESIA. 
DEC 06  14 15 11.9  42.907 N  145.200 E   35 G  6.8  0.7  226  HOKKAIDO, JAPAN REGION. 
DEC 09  08 49 00.1  24.745 N   92.514 E   34 D  5.4  0.8  135  INDIA-BANGLADESH BORDER REGION. 
DEC 14  05 56 09.8  44.136 N  141.759 E   10 G  5.8  0.9  236  HOKKAIDO, JAPAN REGION. 
See Article 

How the Earthquake affected Earth - The Dec. 26th Indonesian megathrust earthquake quickened Earth's rotation and changed our planet's shape – January 10, 2005

see captionScience @NASA - NASA scientists studying the Indonesian earthquake of Dec. 26, 2004, have calculated that it slightly changed our planet's shape, shaved almost 3 microseconds from the length of the day, and shifted the North Pole by centimeters. Dr. Benjamin Fong Chao of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and Dr. Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said all earthquakes have some effect on Earth's rotation. It's just that the effects are, usually, barely noticeable. This one was not usual: The devastating megathrust earthquake registered nine on the new "moment" scale (modified Richter scale), making it the fourth largest 'quake in one hundred years.


To the Left: Geography of the Dec. 26th Indonesian earthquake. [More]


Chao and Gross routinely calculate earthquakes' effects on Earth's shape and rotation. They also study changes in polar motion--that is, the shifting of the North Pole. According to their latest calculations, the Dec. 26th earthquake shifted Earth's "mean North Pole" by about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in the direction of 145 degrees east longitude, more or less toward Guam in the Pacific Ocean. This shift is continuing a long-term seismic trend identified in previous studies.


The quake also affected Earth's shape. Chao and Gross calculated that Earth's oblateness (flattening on the top and bulging at the equator) decreased by a small amount--about one part in 10 billion. This continues the trend of earthquakes making Earth less oblate. Less oblate means more round.


They also found the earthquake decreased the length of the day by 2.68 microseconds. (A microsecond is one millionth of a second.) In other words, Earth spins a little faster than it did before. This change in spin is related to the change in oblateness. It's like a spinning skater drawing arms closer to the body resulting in a faster spin.


None of these changes have yet been measured--only calculated. But Chao and Gross hope to detect the changes when Earth rotation data from ground based and space-borne sensors are reviewed.


Detection of a Major Catastrophes


Major MT Shift in Progress: Warning – January 12, 2005


Hello all:
There is a now major MT shift in progress. Most likely it indicates a strong earthquake is in final preparation, and deep crustal resonant harmonic energy is surfacing along the Pacific and North American Plate boundary.


The high priority level warning encompasses the San Andreas fault from Gorman to the Salton Sea, including the Mojave Desert and the San Jacinto Fault Zone from Wrightwood to Mexicali. and the Imperial fault from Brawley to Northern Baja, Mexico. Southern and Central California should now be on advisory from Bakersfield to San Diego to expect a strong seismic event (M6+) within the next several days along one of the major faults in the region.


URL: Near Real-Time Data Display Web Page



Coles Method of Detecting Earthquakes

There are two types of earthquake signals, “Initial” build-up and “Main” signals that are seismic events in progress that result in earthquakes as much as 90% of the time. “Initial Signals” are build-up types of indicators and may be compared to a rumbling or elevated background noise from the earth’s normal two to twelve hertz or the sudden lack of sound coming from normal rotation of this sphere we live on. These “Initial Signals” eventually have yielded quakes approximately 5-to-15% of the time depending on the area and can be followed by a main signal that could give us as much as a 90% forecast with larger quakes. These could and most of the time takes months or years. This could be a “get ready” warning stage. A long period of “initial signals” with a sudden change could be an indication to “get set” and when the “Main Signal” hits that would be “go”! This is the time interval that one starts to pay extreme attention. Even so, “Initial Signals” by themselves are still good for about 5-to-15% of the forecast.

“Main Signals” are the detections of the earth as it sparks as a beacon flaring radio noise and sometimes travels around the globe. These are the signals which give us the most likely possible dates, times, location(s), and magnitudes. They happen at one day (four-to-twenty four hours 1x1), four days (fifty six-to-ninety six hours 2x2), nine day (3x3), sixteen day (4x4), etc. At 1x1, 2x2, 3x3, 4x4, 5x5, 6x6, etc. those most likeliest dates have occurred on 1,4,9,16 days and only three quakes that have gone 25 days with three that have taken 28 to 30 days (see eruption cycle at Mt. Saint Helens); this could be due to a lunar cycle. On January 21, 1994 twenty-one main signals occurred and it took 361 days for the quake to happen at Kobe, Japan on January 16, 1995. (19x19) before the quake there was also four day, nine and sixteen day signals. These signals can be picked up on a SPECTRUM ANALYZER. This could be likened to a pencil under pressure sounding off with no visible signs of cracking. Matter of fact, most all-solid objects under stress will sound off before apparent cracking or breaking occurs. More so, quartz crystal sends off radio noise (piezoelectricity) just before breakage despite “Nay Sayers” that profess that it isn’t so! (See Nova, “Are we alone”, Colorado Department of Mine segment). Also it may be brought to our attention that some rocks decay and are radioactive for tens of thousands of years. Who says that radio noise does not come out of rock? Some of the brightest and deadliest radio waves come from small orb made from rock and put under explosive pressure making nuclear pulse; the Atom bomb.

An example of a final main signal would be 2:57 A.M. Friday the 14th of January 1994. Counting the day that it happened as “day one”, “day four” would be Monday morning January 17th. If these “main Signals” happen in the in the afternoon or evening the quakes most likely happen the morning of the fourth day. The midway portion of these signals toward sunrise would place the time at 4:27 A.M. The Northridge Quake in 1994 hit at 4:31 A.M. four minutes off the exact dead center. The Kobe, Japan Quake in 1995 gave off the most “Main Signals” starting the 2nd of January 1995 giving a distinct echo to indicate distance, location, and magnitude killing nearly 6,000 thousand people sixteen days later.

If a person that would have listened to “Initial Signals” and “Main Signals” like they did back in the early days of radio in Los Angeles: Tune your AM radio down to 530 kHz and then slowly go up the dial until you have reached a quiet spot in between radio stations with little or no buzz. Next turn the volume up to where there is constant static then turn the volume down until you can barely hear it. You will hear lightning crackling during a storm, lights being turned on and off, or some kinds of electric tools being used. These need to be subtracted from the earth’s upward cascading harmonic emissions from the 2-to-12 hertz range. Write down the exact time and dates and you will be hearing these initial and main signals. Don’t forget to go about the normal activities of the day. These anomalies will be loud enough that you can hear them at the time they happen even though the volume is low. When the “Main Signal” is detected an earthquake is in process. There will be a sixteen (16) day window period with three most likely dates, if the quake doesn’t happen in the first 24 hours. A good example would be if a “Main Signal” happened on the 1st of any given month, the window would start on the first (1st) and go through the seventeenth (17th) of that month. The most likely dates would be the first, fourth, ninth, and sixteenth (1x1, 2x2, 3x3, 4x4). The time would be based on +/- 9 to 15 hours toward sunrise/sunset and could be either side of the dates mentioned. If a signal happens late at night the following would apply. The 4th and 5th, or 9th and 10th, or the 16th and 17th with the last day being the 18th.

Please stay prepared... “All we want to do is save lives" JackColes

For References See: AP Wire Service January 17-19th, 1994, Hard Copy, American Journal (Inside Edition January 19, 1994) and the L.A. Weekly News; “The Myth of Solid Ground” April 9-16th, 1999 top of page 34; the “Thurston Clark’s book “California Fault” see pages 254-258 and 397-398; along with many other publications for television, radio, and newspaper from Canada to Japan down to Columbia; nationwide in the United States.


Jewish Rabbinic Response to the Earthquake


Israel's Top Rabbi: 'G-d Is Angry'; Tidal Waves Kill 3 Israelis – December 31, 2004
Israel National News - Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar commented on the catastrophe in southeast Asia, saying we must increase good deeds and pray for Divine mercy. Three Israeli victims have been identified…The earthshaking disaster in southeast Asia shows that "G-d is angry" and that "we must pray more and ask for mercy," Rabbi Amar told the Ynet website. "The nations of the world are obligated to observe the seven Noahide laws, such as prohibitions against murder and illicit relations... The deaths are very painful." No one should mourn for those who are missing until the rescue missions stop trying to find victims, the rabbi added. Israeli rescue teams are planning to remain in the region for at least another few days for this purpose.

Seven Israelis still are missing, after three others have been identified as victims of the earthquake's giant waves. As opposed to the world-wide flood at the time of Noah, the latest "Divine anger," as Rabbi Amar described it, was focused on southeast Asia, where the continuously rising number of victims has climbed past 135,000. According to eyewitnesses, at least five of the seven missing were caught in the tidal waves and probably died. Five were in Thailand and two in Sri Lanka. Names of two of the identified victims were released: Hemda Cohen (female), 55, of Rishon LeTzion, and Sharon Haliel (male), 22, from Gan Yavneh, a small city neighboring the southern side of Rishon LeTzion. Another victim was 11-month-old Matan Nesima, whose Belgian-Israeli parents buried him Thursday at the Mt. of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem. He was killed when a huge wave swept him out of the hotel room where he and his parents were staying.

Hundreds of Israelis around the country cried sighs of relief and prayers for thanks when they learned their relatives survived. Earlier this week, many hundreds of Israelis were unaccounted for, but the number dropped hourly, in contrast to the constantly rising six-figure number of those killed.  Israeli teams praised the officials of Thailand who have been working "very methodically." Israeli police and the Zaka volunteer organization, a hareidi group that specializes in identifying disaster and terror victims, are working against time to locate and identify bodies before they are buried on the spot. Forensic specialists have collected DNA samples from the families of the missing and are comparing them with samples of victims. The teams from Israel "have turned over every stone," said Hilik Magnus, director of the rescue unit that works for the Phoenix insurance company. "We are not giving up, and still hope to hear from [those who are missing]. We have seen those who returned to Israel and are happy for those whose children returned."

People of other nations were envious of the Israeli efforts to find its citizens. "The Swedish people are asking their government why it isn't acting like Israel," said Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, a deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry. He said that his office managed to reduce the number of missing Israelis from close to 2,000 to 17 in three days. "If that doesn't tell the story of how much work we have done, then I don't know what it says." (Read Entire Article)


Disaster, Redemption and the Tsunami – The Messiah’s Coming is near claim Jewish Sages – December 30, 2004 / 18 Tevet 5765
Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) - "We are now in the fourth year of what could be the seven-year Redemption period, according to the calculation of the Vilna Gaon. [However.] in the coming three years, uncertainty about the future will hang over our heads, unless we work and strive that the Messiah be revealed. The Messiah is already [here] in Israel. Whatever people are sure will not happen, is liable to happen, and whatever we are certain will happen may disappoint us. But in the end, there will be peace throughout the world. The world is mitmatek mehadinim (lit., becoming sweet from/of strict justice), great tragedies in the world are foreseen, that's the thing of the Jews going to the East. [emphasis added] But our enemies will not prevail over us in the Land of Israel, 'fear and trembling will fall upon them,' in the [merit of the] power of Torah."


At least one Kabbalist sage predicted "natural calamities" over two weeks ago. He and others call for an increase in acts of kindness, as they try to place the events in universal context.

Rabbi Kaduri said this week, "What can save the world from calamities is real repentance by Jews, who must increase acts of kindness towards one another... The cry of the many poor in Israel and the expulsion of Jews from their homes shakes the world... It's not for naught that this place was hit, where many of our compatriots went to look for this-worldly lusts."

Rabbi Kaduri has told his students that the current government will be the last one of the "old era," and that the new government will already have leadership of the Messianic era.

Another sage, Rabbi Chaim Kanevsky of Bnei Brak, was quoted in Yediot in the same article as saying that we are verily in the period of the beginning of the Redemption period, and that the Messiah could be revealed at any moment. He called for further outreach "in order to prevent calamities and to bring mercy from the Creator. All Jews must come to the Land of Israel." The Rabbi also called to establish Torah schools in every area, and that "Torah study will prevent calamities – from earthquakes to other natural disasters."

The Kipa website, a Hebrew-language forum for religious youth, features a response by Rabbi Uziel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of the Misgav Regional Council in the Galilee regarding a Jewish approach to the calamitous events. "First of all," Rabbi Eliyahu wrote, "we should pray and ask G-d to remove His wrath from the word, send a complete recovery to the injured, and help and protect everyone in the world, causing sorrow to depart."  Rabbi Eliyahu added that what is happening now was decreed on Rosh HaShanah [the Jewish New Year]: "It was a Divine decree that was issued regarding 'who will be killed by water, and who by fire...'" Our job now, he wrote, is to "pray to G-d, to try harder in studying Torah and fulfilling the Torah and doing acts of kindness and charity. This is an hour of reckoning for the entire world!!!"

Rabbi Eliyahu emphasized that G-d has complete control of nature, and that the Jewish People live "amidst great faith, despite questions that remain open. No question mark can break our strength of great and perfect faith in G-d... This does not prevent us from asking and searching for answers and [logical] explanations, but it all takes place on the solid ground of great faith in G-d... The Bible (Zechariah 14) mentions that in the future, when the Messiah comes, the Mt. of Olives will be split in two... The Messiah can come at any minute, even as you read these lines..." (Article)


The Day the Earth Shrugged and Groaned


Tide of Grief - Tsunami: The Earth shrugged, and more than 140,000 died – January 10, 2005

Newsweek - A story of unimaginable tragedy and heroism.

If, on the Sunday morning after Christmas, you had been like some all-seeing, all-knowing deity, able to peer down through the ocean depths off the western coast of the island of Sumatra, here is what you would have seen:  Two giant tectonic plates, which have been pushing against each other for millennia, suddenly shift. The left plate has been sliding under the right at the rate of a few centimeters a year, but now the top plate suddenly springs up, lifting perhaps 60 feet along a 1,000-mile ridge. Above, ocean surface hardly ripples. In planetary terms, the movement is "utterly insignificant," says geologist Simon Winchester, author of "Krakatoa," a recent best seller about a volcano that exploded off Sumatra in 1883, killing 40,000 people. "The earth shrugged for a moment. Everything moved a little bit."


The deadly tsunami receeding from the shoreline Picture: Getty Images


The quake jolted the Earth's rotation enough to trim a couple of microseconds off the clock. Relatively speaking, it was a small blip in the long, violent history of a planet with a molten core, where entire continents have vanished and then re-formed. But the seismic bump was enough to displace trillions of tons of water in a few seconds. Silently, invisibly, the water pushed outward at the speed of a jet plane. As it neared shore, the speed slowed, and large waves formed, in some places very large ones. Usually, a tsunami does not look like the massive, cresting mountain of water in "The Day After Tomorrow." Still, it's not a sight you would ever want to see while standing on a beach.


As the waters receded last week, the death toll kept rising: 20,000, 40,000, 80,000, 100,000... and doctors warned of epidemics still to come. Suffering was indiscriminate in the luxury resorts and poor fishing hamlets along the Indian Ocean coast. "Kids missing and sharks washed ashore and people worrying about their Christian Dior shirts and jewels while people were being thrown against rocks. It was just so random," said Vikram Chatwal, a Manhattan hotelier vacationing in the Thai resort of Phuket. There were the tabloid-titillating survivor stories, like the rescue of Petra Nemcova, cover girl of the 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, who clung to a tree for eight hours. Or the escape of the Harrow School cricket team, which had the pluck or luck to climb up on a pavilion in Sri Lanka as the waters swirled across the pitch. Less heralded, but bitterly mourned by their parents, were the 20 boys playing pickup cricket on Marina Beach in the south Indian city of Chennai, all swept away by a single wave. Lost: a whole church, as its parishioners worshiped on a Sunday morning. Found: a 20-day-old baby floating on a mattress, crying but alive.


There were some heroic tales. Casey Sobolewski of Oceanside, Calif., and his mother, Julie, were sailing off the Thai coast when the wave roared by. They began pulling aboard survivors sucked toward them by the undertow. Casey jumped into the dinghy to rescue some nearby floundering children. Julie was discouraged to see other boats hanging back, their passengers fearful of getting involved. The scene evoked images of the sinking of the Titanic, when all but one of the lifeboats stayed away as the great ship went down, lest they be overwhelmed and perish, too.


Helpless awe was the more prevalent emotion. TV images of shocked vacationers running before surging floods on sea coasts from Thailand to Sri Lanka were followed by scenes of utter devastation in the remote outreaches of the Indonesian archipelago (known as the Ring of Fire for its deadly seismic history). Slowly, the rest of the world realized the magnitude of the disaster (in the Bush administration, perhaps a little too slowly). If there was a single tragedy repeated over and over again, it was the failure to act—usually, the inability to act—until it was too late.  At Hawaii's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, shortly after 3 p.m. on a quiet holiday afternoon, one of the scientists on duty, Stuart Weinstein, noticed a spike on the seismometer in the Cocos Islands, south of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. The initial reading was for an earthquake registering 8.0 on the Richter scale. Quakes of such magnitude are not all that unusual. At 3:14, Weinstein and a colleague sent out a routine notice of the quake and a message: this earthquake is located outside the pacific. No destructive tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data. Over the next half hour, the seismic data kept streaming in to the Hawaii center, and the estimated size of the quake increased—fivefold, to 8.5 on the Richter scale. Time to call in the boss: director Charles McCreery was summoned by phone. Now a more ominous message was sent out: there is a possibility of a tsunami near the epicenter.


In fact, a tsunami had already smashed into remote North Sumatra, almost instantly killing thousands. The tsunami watchers in Honolulu had no way of knowing: there are sea-level wave monitors in the Pacific, but not the Indian Ocean. Set up after a tidal wave killed more than 150 people in Hawaii in 1946, the Hawaii tsunami center is responsible only for warning the 29 countries along the Pacific Rim, where tsunamis are frequent. In the Indian Ocean, tsunamis were unusual. Governments there have fewer resources. There is no warning system.


In Jakarta, Indonesia, some 5,000 miles to the east of Hawaii—and about 1,200 miles from the epicenter—Prih Harjadi, director of data gathering at Indonesia's Bureau of Meteorology and Geophysics, got his first inkling of danger in a phone call from his nephew. A quake had shaken the city of Medan, on the island of Sumatra. Harjadi rushed from his home to his office to learn of the unfolding disaster along the Sumatran coast. He was crestfallen. His government had discussed setting up a tsunami-warning system back in 1992. But an official request for aid from Japan "got lost" in the bureaucracy, Harjadi said. The cost of the plan never approved: $2 million.


The Thai coast, some 300 miles from the quake, was the next to be hit. The area has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world; tourists flock there. Coming off a recent divorce in Britain, Jack Davison was looking forward to sun, romance and adventure during his Christmas holiday in Thailand. The 57-year-old retired schoolmaster was walking near Patong Beach on Sunday morning when he noticed a crowd of Western tourists and locals staring curiously out to sea.

The water seemed to have vanished from the shore. Then the crowd noticed a small wall of white water about a mile out. Within seconds, the wall loomed larger and began tossing yachts and fishing boats like toys as it barreled in. The people around Davison began to scream. Too late, Davison and the others turned to run. The Briton was pinned beneath a car as both he and the vehicle were swept away. "It went totally dark, and the only thing I could see was the wheel of the car on top of me and the exhaust pipe. I thought that was it," recalled Davison. Suddenly, he was wrenched free and came up gasping. He watched in horror as a young European couple, completely naked, washed out of the window of their ground-floor room at the Sea Gull Hotel just before a car smashed into the window frame.

One of the young Europeans was a 29-year-old Italian named Dario Tropea. He and his female companion had been abruptly awakened by a torrent of water in their hotel room. In five seconds, the water level had risen to within inches of the 10-foot ceiling, leaving the trapped couple no choice but to link arms and dive through the window. Tropea lost consciousness. "When I woke up, I couldn't see the hotel, and I thought it had collapsed." Tropea found his shocked, naked companion, and they started back to look for friends—when they saw a second wave. "People were screaming, calling out for us to run, and car horns jamming as they crashed into the hotel," recalled Tropea, as he sat, dazed and injured but alive, in a hospital room two days later.


It took the tsunami less than two hours to cross the Bay of Bengal to India. In the small town of Nagapattinam on India's east coast, K. P. Selvam, a wiry, weathered, 43-year-old fisherman, was relaxing under a shade tree after Sunday mass, mending some nets. On this perfect day, he was thinking about going fishing with his mates. His wife was cleaning their house, a tile-roofed, mud-and-brick hut a hundred yards from the sea. Their small daughter and two sons played outside. Suddenly, Selvam heard a distant purr, a sound he had never heard before. The sea had always been Selvam's sustainer and his friend. But the noise bothered him as he gazed into the clear sky and limitless horizon beyond. Then he noticed something that made his stomach churn. A thin black border had appeared on the horizon; it seemed to be thickening, growing. "I stood up and started shouting at my wife to run..." Selvam recalled, speaking feebly. "I clung to a tree but soon realized that the huge tree had been uprooted." He survived. But his wife and three children, his home and many of his friends were gone, and he was surrounded by corpses—"some," Selvam said, "had their heads smashed."


Many of the fishermen and their families, swept away by the tsunami that rolled over the east coast of India, were squatters. Unable to afford houses in town, they had built huts illegally on public beachfront. Marimithu, a retired fisherman who works as a night watchman, says next time he will build a house with a brick foundation, though he must be aware that bricks and mortar did not save his neighbors. His children, who barely survived with him, now wake up screaming, "The wave is coming!" Vasturi, a 50-year-old grandmother, saw her daughter and two grandchildren swept away. Her daughter, Saraswati, managed to survive, but she cannot stop weeping. Three days after the death of her children, Saraswati's face was etched with deep, angry scratches that could only have been self-inflicted.

Tsunamis do not slow down or lose much power until they reach shallow water. This tsunami hit the coast of Africa some four or five hours after the quake. Back in Hawaii, the time was a little after 7 p.m. At the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center near Honolulu, Stuart Weinstein sat looking at his seismic readings, watching TV and, as he put it, "kind of feeling like a schmuck." Surrounded by technology, but lacking a warning system for the Indian Ocean, he had been reduced to typing in "tsunami" on Google to keep track of the death tolls as they were posted on the wires. The numbers started small—one dead in Phuket, 150 in Sri Lanka—but it was dawning on Weinstein that a disaster was happening, and there was nothing much to do about it. Weinstein and his colleagues, Barry Hirshorn and the center's director, Charles McCreery, realized that they were dealing not with a localized quake, but a gash stretching for hundreds of miles along the Indian Ocean floor. The seismology center at Harvard, the gold standard for earthquake watchers, was now estimating the strength of the quake as 8.9 (later revised to 9.0). That was a monster quake, capable of generating killer waves. The tsunami watchers wrestled over whom to call. They were on the phone to the U.S. embassies in Madagascar and Mauritius at about the time when the waves struck there. It was already too late.


The relief effort would become global and vast (including millions raised privately on the Internet). But it started with painful slowness. In the prov-ince of Aceh on the island of Sumatra—the area closest to the epicenter and the worst hit—the Indonesian government was barely in control. A rebellion had been spluttering and flaring for years. One of the groups that managed to get to Aceh after the tsunami was the moderate Islamic organization Muhammadiyah. Somewhat akin to the Christian Coalition in the United States (though much larger), the 35-million-member group has the clout to put politicians in office and runs a chain of colleges. It took 72 hours for a Muhammadiyah relief mission to reach Aceh. The airport could accommodate only two cargo planes at a time. Arriving on a plane donated by budget carrier Lion Air (along with cases of donated instant noodles and strawberry milk), the Muhammadiyah team, accompanied by two NEWSWEEK journalists, secured an SUV belonging to the local military-intelligence chief. The man's riding crop, left on the back seat, provided a moment of levity. One Muhammadiyah staffer joked about his cell phone, punching buttons and saying in English, "Nokia is NOT connecting people." But the mood quickly chilled. Just beyond the airport, soldiers were filling mass graves with wrapped corpses. Across a bridge, at the edge of town, trees, brush, roof beams, scraps of clothing caked in mud—all lined the roads like dirty snow. Then they saw the bodies: naked, bloated, leaking, baked into putrescence by three days in the sun.  The Muhammadiyah team pulled on masks as their car pressed farther downtown. The driver had to slalom through the corpses as they drew close to the Muhammadiyah headquarters. They passed a 50-foot fishing boat, lying on top of a bridge. Buildings had been crushed. Whole neighborhoods had vanished. The car stopped before a pile of bodies. The group stepped out, looking somber, uncertain. Rizal Sukma, the secretary of Muhammadiyah, declared, "Turn back. Our headquarters is destroyed." Nearby, on a lamppost, hung posters of the missing.


The group retreated to the Grand Mosque, still standing but its minaret riddled with cracks. Built more than a century ago, the mosque was a bastion of resistance against Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia. When the tsunami hit, the holy place became a refuge. Many people fled before the rising waters into the main prayer hall, but the waters followed. Many drowned beneath the ornate pillars and gilded chandeliers. Two days later the floor was still slick, the stench overpowering. A skinny man with a cane and stiff black hat, identifying himself as Zulkifli, went up to the group. "This is punishment from the gods," he said. "Because there is no justice, because our leaders are oppressive. They don't care about the poor." Where was the imam? He had not been seen since the quake. No one knew if he was dead or alive.


Din Syamsuddin, the president of Muhammadiyah (he has a doctorate in political science from UCLA), took charge. A short, clean-shaven man with a slight paunch and calm, grave manner, he ordered teachers and school administrators to sweep the streets for corpses, set up soup kitchens and prepare camps for refugees. One problem: the locals had been reluctant to bury victims until they could be washed and wrapped in white cloth, according to Muslim practice. But in Jakarta, Islamic leaders have issued a fatwa, a religious edict, declaring that during the crisis period field burials would suffice.


In 1883, when the volcanic island of Krakatoa blew up, it not only killed tens of thousands of people but spread political fallout across the archipelago. The cataclysm contributed to "militant, anti-Western Islamic movements" on the main island of Java, wrote Simon Winchester, leading to a full-blown revolt against the Dutch in 1888. Now the government of Indonesia, already on shaky ground with separatists on Sumatra, will be sorely tested to provide relief—and avoid taking the blame for the suffering meted out by an angry God.


Indonesian politicians are not the only ones with something to lose. More than 10,000 miles away, at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, the president of the United States was beginning to feel some political heat. For the first three days Bush stayed out of sight, on vacation. "The president doesn't like the idea of empty gestures," a White House spokesman told NEWSWEEK. At first the administration pledged $15 million in humanitarian aid, and by Tuesday the ante had been upped to $35 million. By Wednesday, Bush was appearing before reporters in an airplane hangar to express his condolences. Then he was off in his pickup truck to clear brush. White House aides were defensive about Bush's slow reaction, but officials made it clear that the United States will play a prominent role in a multibillion-dollar global relief effort. By the weekend the administration had increased its pledge tenfold, to $350 million.


The Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii is normally a pretty relaxed place. Headquartered near Pearl Harbor under some palm trees, the low-slung white building could pass as a pool house. The staff lives in houses just yards away. But the Warning Center staffers have not been getting much rest. They have been churning out a timeline demanded by the White House, which apparently wanted a better fix on the center's efforts to warn other nations.  McCreery says he's received some hate mail. "It's along the lines of 'You moron, I got on the Web and I found phone numbers. You could have started to look up numbers of hotels on the beach to warn them'." For a moment, McCreery looked as if he would just brush off the suggestion. But then he said, "You know, looked at calmly, it's not a bad idea. It's better to save some people than no people." Short-circuiting the chain of command, however, never occurred to them, and in truth, how many hotel managers would have listened to warnings from a frantic scientist half a world away on a calm and beautiful Sunday morning?  Still, McCreery tortured himself. "In retrospect, it's partly because we just didn't realize the scale of the thing. In some ways, I'm going to feel a responsibility my whole life." McCreery teared up, then regained his composure. "Sorry. The things we should have done were not done from last week, but things we should have done over a bunch of years" to set up a network in the Indian Ocean. McCreery was strung out; he'd barely seen his family in days. When he got the call on Sunday, he had been about to put together the bicycles he had bought for his twin 4-year-old girls for Christmas. The bikes were still sitting in their boxes.


Grief circled the globe. At a pagoda in Thailand visited by a NEWSWEEK reporter on Tuesday, the coffins were stacked eight feet high. But the coffins had run out, and aid workers had started wrapping bodies in tarps and blankets. Then they ran out of those and just laid the bodies in a grassy area. The faces on the bodies were frozen in grimaces of suffering. Hundreds of volunteers had come out to help, but many visibly gagged as they moved about the bodies. The bodies kept arriving. (Read Entire Sober Article)


Quake, roaring sea, ... now pestilences - Epidemics could kill as many as tsunami, say relief officials – December 28, 2004
About 4,000 people in Sri Lanka,India, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have been killed by horrible tsunamis triggered by devastating earthquake on Sunday. WorldNetDaily - The United Nations warns epidemics will break out within days unless health systems in southern Asia can cope with tens of thousands of corpses and hundreds of thousands left homeless in the wake of the 9.0 quake-induced killer tsunami that struck 11 nations. "This may be the worst national disaster in recent history because it is affecting so many heavily populated coastal areas, so many vulnerable communities," said the U.N.'s Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland. "The longer term effects may be as devastating as the tsunami itself. Many more people are now affected by polluted drinking water. We could have epidemics within a few days unless we get health systems up and running."


About 4,000 people in Sri Lanka,India, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have been killed by horrible tsunamis triggered by devastating earthquake.  (Photo: Xinhua/AFP)


The crisis cuts across all human needs, say experts – water, sanitation, food, shelter and health. "We've had reports already from the south of India of bodies rotting where they have fallen and that will immediately affect the water supply especially for the most impoverished people," said Christian Aid emergency officer Dominic Nutt. Some affected areas have had communications cut. Others are so remote it is impossible to know the extent of the damage.


Governments in all 11 nations hit by the killer waves are still trying to determine how many were killed in the devastation wreaked by Sunday's quake and the tsunamis it caused. But with relief officials warning of possible cholera epidemics and malaria, Dr. David Nabarro, head of crisis operations for WHO, told reporters in Geneva that"there is certainly a chance that we could have as many dying from communicable diseases as from the tsunami." Nabarro said the main threat to life now is communicable diseases associated with a lack of clean water and sanitation. "The initial terror associated with the tsunamis and the earthquake itself may be dwarfed by the longer term suffering of the affected communities," Nabarro warned.


Hospitals and health services already are overwhelmed and may not be able to cope with people who fall ill with disease, he said. Relief organizations are distributing supplies over 11 countries in Asia and Africa, and the United Nations has said it will likely make its largest ever appeal for humanitarian funding in response to the disaster. The hardest-hit countries are Indonesia, whose Aceh region was closest to the epicenter of Sunday's earthquake; then Sri Lanka and Thailand.


The health of babies and young children is the greatest immediate concern. Estimates say one-third of those killed are children. Children are more at risk than adults from diseases that follow in the wake of polluted water, fractured sewers and exposure. "Even simple diarrhea and chest infections can prove fatal," said Dr. Vivien Walden, a health adviser to Oxfam. "In many places it is still raining and families do not have shelter. They have lost everything. They have no means of cooking and there is overcrowding. In these circumstances, children under five are very vulnerable."


Both adults and children who sustained wounds risk infection and ulcers. Women, forced to wade through flood water, are at risk of vaginal infections. Tetanus injections may be given to some. But the greatest public health risk is from the polluted water supply. "Clean water, first and foremost, is the priority," Dr. Walden told the London Telegraph. "The wells will be polluted. Among the first things Oxfam is providing are buckets to carry water and cooking equipment," she said. Lack of electricity will compound the clean-water crisis if pumping stations fail. Desalination will be necessary as the flooding was caused by sea water. Chlorine is the most widely and easily used means of disinfecting drinking water and, after 30 minutes, deactivates 99.99 per cent of enteric bacteria and viruses.


The great fear following a serious disaster is of epidemics of cholera, dengue fever, malaria, hepatitis A or even measles. They do not follow automatically. Infectious diseases such as cholera, hepatitis A and measles need to be present before they can be spread. With mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, the insects and their larvae will have been washed away and need time to re-establish. If malaria becomes a problem, it will be likely to make its appearance in six to eight weeks. However, people forced to live outside are at greater risk of mosquito bites and overcrowding in relief centers makes the spread of infection easier. "Hundreds of thousands of people fought to survive the tsunamis on Sunday. Now we need to help them survive the aftermath," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "We're concerned about providing safe water, which is urgent in all these countries, and about preventing the spread of disease. For children, the next few days will be the most critical."


A microbiologist in India said the risk of epidemics is very high because the decaying bodies are "bacteria factories." In India alone, hundreds of bodies lie in the streets and on beaches. Steve Aswin of UNICEF said the bodies of the dead should simply be buried in mass graves, but there is often no one to do it. UNICEF said it's concerned about the possible spread of waterborne diseases and is sending anti-diarrhea medicine in its aid shipments. "Safe drinking water is crucial at this juncture," Bellamy said. "Where the flooding was the worst, local water supplies are contaminated and damaged. Without safe water, people will start drinking from unclean sources, and that will lead to disease. This is our No. 1 concern at the moment."  (Article)



With little warning, director saves 28 orphans from tsunami – December 29, 2004

NAVALADY, Sri Lanka (The Washington Post) – Two hundred yards away from the beach, in the orphanage he had built, Dayalan Sanders lounged in his bed early Sunday morning. He was thinking, he said, about the sermon he was due to deliver in the chapel in half an hour. A few yards away, most of the 28 children under his care were still in their rooms, getting ready for services. Then he heard the pounding of feet in the corridor outside his room, and his wife burst through the door, a frantic look on her face. “The sea is coming!” she said. “Come! Come! Look at the sea!”


Thanks to quick thinking, blind luck and an outboard motor that somehow started on the first pull, the orphans and their caretakers joined the ranks of countless survivors of the epic earthquake and coastal disaster that so far has claimed the lives of an estimated 78,000 people in Sri Lanka and 11 other countries. This is their story.

It is also the story of their chief rescuer, Sanders, a Sri Lankan-born missionary and U.S. citizen whose mother and siblings live in Gaithersburg , Md., where he once owned a townhouse. A member of the country’s Tamil ethnic minority, Sanders, 50, studied to be an accountant before founding a missionary group and moving to Switzerland in the 1980s to work with Tamil refugees displaced by fighting between Tamil rebels and Sri Lankan government forces, which have been observing a cease-fire since 2002.


In 1994, Sanders founded the Samaritan Children’s Home in Navalady, a small fishing village that occupies a narrow peninsula on Sri Lanka’s economically depressed east coast, about 150 miles northeast of Colombo, the capital. He built the orphanage with donations and money from the sale of his Maryland townhouse, he said.

With ocean on one side and a lagoon on the other, the four-acre orphanage was a strikingly beautiful place, set in a grove of stately palms. The children – some of whom had lost their parents in the civil war – lived four to a room in whitewashed cottages with red tile roofs, attending school in the village nearby. Bougainvillea spilled from concrete planters. “People used to come and take photographs of the flowers,” said Sanders, a handsome, youthful-looking man who speaks precise idiomatic English and peppers his conversation with Scripture. “They used to say it looked like Eden.”


It was a busy, happy time at the orphanage. On Friday, the children sang, danced and performed the Nativity scene at their annual Christmas pageant, followed the next day by Christmas services and dinner for 250 guests, many of them Hindus from the nearby village. Sanders was so exhausted by his duties as host, he said, that he went to bed early on Saturday night. He also forgot to check, as he usually does, on whether the outboard motor had been removed from the orphanage launch, as it was supposed to be each night as a precaution against theft.

It proved to be the luckiest mistake he ever made.


On Sunday morning, Sanders said, he rose at his customary hour of 4 a.m. to wander the grounds and pray, then went back to bed. He woke up again around 7:30. He recalled the stillness. Not a breath of air stirred the surface of the sea. Small waves rolled listlessly onto the beach, then retreated with a gentle hiss. “It was so calm and so still,” he recalled. “The surface of the ocean was like a sheet of glass. Not a leaf moved.” Two young men on his staff wandered down to the ocean for a swim. It isn’t clear who saw the wave first. His wife, Kohila, said she was alerted by one of the orphans, a girl who burst into the kitchen as Kohila was mixing powdered milk for her 3-year-daughter. Kohila ran into the brilliant sunshine and saw the building sea. Even the color of the water was wrong: It looked, she said, “like ash.” Kohila ran to tell her husband, who told her not to panic, he recalled. “I said, „Be calm. God is with us. Nothing will ever harm us without His permission.”’ Wrapped in a sarong, he ran outside and looked toward the ocean. There on the horizon, he said, was a “30-foot wall of water,” racing toward the wispy asuarinas pines that marked the landward side of the beach. With barely any time to think, let alone act, he ran toward the lagoon side of the compound, where the launch with its outboard motor chafed at a pier. By then, many of the children had heard the commotion and had also run outside, some of them half dressed. Sanders shouted at the top of his lungs, urging them all toward the boat.


Desperate, he asked if anyone had seen his daughter, and a moment later one of the older girls thrust the toddler into his arms. Sanders heaved her into the boat, along with the other small children, as the older ones, joined by his wife and the orphanage staff, clambered aboard on their own. One of his employees yanked on the starter cord and the engine sputtered instantly to life – something that Sanders swears had never happened before. “Usually you have to pull it four or five times,” he said.

Crammed with more than 30 people, the dangerously overloaded launch roared into the lagoon at almost precisely the same moment, Sanders said, that the wall of water overwhelmed the orphanage, swamping its single-story buildings to the rafters. “It was a thunderous roar, and black sea,” he said. As the compound receded behind the boat, Sanders said, he watched in amazement as the surging current smashed a garage and ejected a brand-new Toyota pickup. “The roof came flying off – it just splintered in every direction,” he recalled. “I saw the Toyota just pop out of the garage.” The vehicle bobbed briefly on the surface, collided with a palm tree – the mark of its impact was clearly visible Wednesday – then slid over the edge of the compound in the torrent before slipping beneath the rapidly rising surface of the lagoon. Another vehicle, a maroon van, was smashed against a palm tree. A three-wheeled motorized rickshaw parked on the property whirled around as if it were circling a drain, Kohila Sanders recalled.


The orphans’ ordeal did not end when their boat pulled away from the shore. Not only was water cascading over the lagoon side of the peninsula, but it also was pouring in directly from the mouth of the estuary about two miles away. Sanders feared the converging currents would swamp the small craft. At that point, Sanders said, he recalled a line from the Book of Isaiah: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against it.” He raised his hand in the direction of the flood and shouted, “I command you in the name of Jesus – stop!” The water then seemed to “stall, momentarily,” he said. “I thought at the time I was imagining things.” With the water pouring into the mouth of the lagoon, he then began to worry that waves would overtake them from behind, swamping the small boat. Reasoning that it was better to hit the waves head on, he said, he ordered the driver to reverse direction and head back toward the open ocean. But that maneuver carried its own risks. As it made for the mouth of the lagoon, the boat was broadsided and nearly capsized by the torrent pouring over the peninsula. “The children were very frightened,” Kohila Sanders, 30, recalled. “We were praying, „God help us, God help us.”’


As the waters began to roll back out to sea, the turbulence subsided. It was then, Sanders and his wife recalled, that they became aware of the people crying for help as they bobbed in the water nearby. They were villagers who had been swept off the peninsula. The passengers rescued one young man, who was “howling for his missing wife and daughters,” Kohila Sanders said. But they had to leave the rest behind. There wasn’t any room. “People were crying, „Help us, help us,”’ Kohila said. “Children were crying.” Eventually the boat made it to the opposite shore, about a mile and a half distant in the city of Batticaloa. The Sanders, their daughter and perhaps a dozen of the orphaned and now displaced children have found temporary refuge in a tiny church; the rest have been sent elsewhere. The city is short of food and water, and on Wednesday afternoon, corpses were being burned where they had been found at the edge of the lagoon. With more than 2,000 people dead in Batticaloa district, local officials say they lack the means to dispose of the bodies properly and that residents are burning them as a precaution against disease.


The scene at the orphanage was one of utter devastation. The grounds were covered by up to three feet of sand. Several buildings, including the staff quarters, were entirely wiped away, and the others were damaged beyond repair. A body burned near the ruined chapel. Surveying the wreckage, Sanders broke down and cried. “Twenty years of my life put in here, and I saw it all disappear in 20 seconds,” he said between sobs. The orphanage had no insurance. But at other moments, Sanders was philosophical about his loss. “If there was anyone who should have got swept away by this tidal wave, it should have been us,” he said. “We were eyeball to eyeball with the wave.” (Article)


Rain drenches epicentre of tsunami suffering; Sri Lanka hit with flash floods – January 9, 2005

Refugees reach out for food donations at the airport in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. (AP/Abdullah Azam)BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (Canadian Broadcast Co.) - After the devastation wreaked by the seas, a deluge from the skies deepened the misery for tsunami-stricken areas of southern Asia on Saturday, triggering flash-floods in Sri Lanka that sent evacuees fleeing and increasing the threat of deadly disease as survivors shivered in relief centres. The death toll was expected to hit 150,000.


Refugees reach out for food donations at the airport in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. (AP/Abdullah Azam)


A magnitude 6.5 aftershock jolted Sumatra as the world's aid efforts shifted into high gear in ways big and small: elephant convoys working in Thailand, global assistance reaching $2 billion with a fresh pledge from Japan and the U.S. military launching one of the biggest relief missions in history.


The confirmed death toll from the quake and tsunamis that hit a week ago Sunday passed 123,000 and the United Nations has said the estimated number was approaching 150,000. Thailand said it expects its death toll to reach 8,000. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan decided to visit Indonesia, the hardest-hit country, where the official death toll stood at more than 80,000 but officials said it could reach 100,000. Annan plans to attend a conference Thursday in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on organizing relief.  "We mourn, we cry and our hearts weep to witness thousands of victims sprawled everywhere," said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, touring the damage on Sumatra island, which bore the brunt of both the quake and the waves.


A dozen helicopters sent from the USS Abraham Lincoln touched down in Banda Aceh and other parts of Sumatra island's devastated northwestern coast, bringing relief supplies including temporary shelters. Also, a flotilla of cargo planes carrying U.S. marines and water-purifying equipment headed to Sri Lanka. A day after President George W. Bush upped the U.S. pledge to $350 million, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced Saturday his country would contribute up to $500 million US to relief efforts. Canada has pledged $40 million Cdn in aid as part of a U.S.-led international relief coalition but will work through the United Nations. Part of those aid efforts included a second Red Cross plane loaded with water-purification tablets, buckets, axes, shovels and the frame for a warehouse to store relief items, which was scheduled to leave Toronto for Jakarta on Saturday, the Toronto Star reported. The first, a couple of days ago, went to Sri Lanka. More trips are planned as Canadian relief agencies begin to convert the more than $35 million Cdn donated so far by the public - not counting government matching programs - into the kinds of goods needed to feed, house and provide medical help for the millions of victims of last week's earthquake and tsunamis. Canadian cabinet ministers from all over the country have been ordered to return to Ottawa on Sunday for an emergency meeting to talk about further federal response to the disaster.


An announcement is also expected concerning use of the Canadian Forces disaster assistance team know as DART. "The carnage is of a scale that defies comprehension," Bush said in his weekly radio address, announcing a proclamation calling for U.S. flags to be flown at half-mast this week in honour of the dead.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was also heading for the region. But the dollar figures were an abstraction for survivors whose hearts were broken once again by water. At one refugee camp on the grounds of the airport at Banda Aceh, hundreds of people spent a wet night under plastic sheets. Mothers nursed babies while others tried to light a fire with damp matches. "With no help we will die," said Indra Syaputra. "We came here because we heard that we could get food but it was nonsense. All I got was some packets of noodles." The rains pummelling the corpse-littered city were creating the conditions for cholera and other waterborne diseases to spread. Boxes of aid at Banda Aceh's airport soaked up water, making it difficult for workers loading cartons of water, crackers and noodles onto delivery vehicles.


More amazing stories of survival emerged. The Indonesian Red Cross in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, was reported to have dug out a survivor from the ruins of a house where he had been buried since the tsunami struck. The rescuers heard Ichsan Azmil's cries for help. After he was pulled out Friday, he asked for water and was taken to a hospital for treatment of cuts and bruises. On India's remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, a woman who fled the killer waves gave birth Monday in the forest that became her sanctuary. She named her son Tsunami. Even art became part of the folklore of resilience.


In the historic port town Galle, Sri Lanka, several Buddha statues of cement and plaster were found unscathed amid collapsed brick walls in the centre of the devastated city. To many residents, it was a divine sign. "The people are not living according to religious virtues," said Sumana, a Buddhist monk in an orange robe who sheltered himself from the sun under a black umbrella. In eastern Sri Lanka, flash-floods forced the evacuation of about 2,000 people already displaced by a tsunami that killed nearly 29,000 people on the tropical island. Several roads leading to Ampara - one of the hardest hit towns - were flooded, preventing relief trucks from arriving, said Neville Wijesinghe, a senior police officer. Bureaucratic delays, fuel shortages, impassable roads and long distances also blocked supplies.


In addition to the deaths, five million people were homeless. The hunt for loved ones dragged on with tens of thousands still missing. Among the missing were some 3,500 Swedes and 1,000 Germans and hundreds of others from Scandinavia, Italy and Belgium. Officials confirmed five Canadians died in the devastation and up to 150 were missing. Aftershocks rattled the region, sending panicked Sumatrans into the streets. Geologists said a 6.5 quake rattled Sumatra at 1:25 p.m. local time, centred 250 kilometres southwest of Banda Aceh. Smaller quakes hit West Java and southern Sumatra earlier. Seismologists said strong tremors of up to magnitude 6.1 also struck the Andaman and Nicobar islands, where the exact number of tsunami casualties was not known but feared to be in the thousands.


Hunger and disease were the biggest threats in the archipelago, which the Indian government has largely been keeping off-limits to foreign aid agencies. "There is starvation," said Andaman's member of Parliament, Manoranjan Bhakta. "People haven't had food or water for at least five days. There are carcasses." "There will be an epidemic." Island officials said at least 3,754 people were missing amid crumbled homes, downed trees and mounds of dead animals. V.V. Bhat, chief secretary of the islands, said the missing could not be presumed dead because they could have survived in coconut groves that dot the islands.


In the Thai resort Phuket, five elephants, normally used to haul logs in forests, were being sent to pull heavy debris in areas that are too hilly or muddy for vehicles. Thailand's official death count was 4,812, with over one-half of them foreigners. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has warned the figure is likely to reach 8,000. Many people have blamed the high number of casualties on bureaucratic bungling and poor communication systems. Thaksin said the government will investigate why tsunami warnings largely failed to reach officials and tourist resorts. Western health officials headed to devastated areas across Sri Lanka after officials warned about possible disease outbreaks among the one million people seeking shelter in camps. "Our biggest battle and fear now is to prevent an epidemic from breaking out," said Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. "Clean water and sanitation is our main concern."


World Response to the Indonesian Tsunami


Warning System Might Have Reduced Tsunami Toll - December 26, 2004
Indian Ocean (APNews) - The catastrophic death toll in Asia caused by a massive tsunami might have been reduced had India and Sri Lanka been part of an international warning system designed to warn coastal communities about potentially deadly waves, scientists say. Some 5,300 people in India and Sri Lanka were among the nearly 10,000 people killed after being hit by walls of water triggered by a tremendous earthquake early Sunday off Sumatra.


(AP) People search for their belongings after tidal waves destroyed their houses


The warning system is designed to alert nations that potentially destructive waves may hit their coastlines within three to 14 hours. Scientists said seismic networks recorded Sunday's massive earthquake, but without wave sensors in the region, there was no way to determine the direction a tsunami would travel. A single wave station south of the earthquake's epicenter registered tsunami activity less than 2 feet high heading south toward Australia, researchers said. The waves also struck resort beaches on the west coast of the Thailand's south peninsula, killing hundreds. Although Thailand belongs to the international tsunami warning network, its west coast does not have the system's wave sensors mounted on ocean buoys.


The northern tip of the earthquake fault is located near the Andaman Islands, and tsunamis appear to have rushed eastward toward the Thai resort of Phuket on Sunday morning when the community was just stirring. "They had no tidal gauges and they had no warning," said Waverly Person, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., which monitors seismic activity worldwide. "There are no buoys in the Indian Ocean and that's where this tsunami occurred."


The tsunami was triggered by the most powerful earthquake recorded in the past 40 years. The earthquake, whose magnitude was a staggering 8.9, unleashed walls of water more than two stories high to the west across the Bay of Bengal, slamming into coastal communities 1,000 miles away. Hours after the quake, Sumatra was struck by a series of powerful aftershocks. Researchers say the earthquake broke on a fault line deep off the Sumatra coast, running north and south for about 600 miles or as far north as the Andaman and Nicobar islands between India and Mynamar. "It's a huge rupture," said Charles McCreary, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center near Honolulu. "It's conceivable that the sea floor deformed all the way along that rupture, and that's what initiates tsunamis."


Tsunamis as large and destructive as Sunday's typically happen only a few times in a century. A tsunami is not a single wave, but a series of traveling ocean waves generated by geological disturbances near or below the ocean floor. With nothing to stop them, these waves can race across the ocean like the crack of a bullwhip, gaining momentum over thousands of miles. Most are triggered by large earthquakes but they can be caused by landslides, volcanoes and even meteor impacts. The waves are generated when geologic forces displace sea water in the ocean basin. The bigger the earthquake, the more the Earth's crust shifts and the more seawater begins to move. Most tsunamis occur in the Pacific because the ocean basin is rimmed by the Ring of Fire, a long chain of the Earth's most seismically active spots. Marine geologists recently have determined that under certain conditions, the U.S. East Coast and other heavily populated coastlines also could be vulnerable. In a tsunami, waves typically radiate out in directions opposite from the seismic disturbance. In the case of the Sumatra quake, the seismic fault ran north to south beneath the ocean floor, while the tsunami waves shot out west and east.


Tides receding just prior to the tsunamis in Indonesia


Tsunamis are distinguished from normal coastal surf by their great length and speed. A single wave in a tsunami series might be 100 miles long and race across the ocean at 600 mph. When it approaches a coastline, the wave slows dramatically, but it also rises to great heights because the enormous volume of water piles up in shallow coastal bays. And unlike surf, which is generated by wind and the gravitational tug of the moon and other celestial bodies, tsunamis do not break on the coastline every few seconds. Because of their size, it might take an hour for another one to arrive. Some tsunamis appear as a tide that doesn't stop rising, while others are turbulent and savagely chew up the coast. Without instrumentation, so little is known about this tsunami that researchers must wait for eyewitness accounts to determine its characteristics. "It was a big tsunami, but it is hard to say exactly how many waves there were or what happened," McCreary said.


In the hours following an earthquake, tsunamis eventually lose their power to friction over the rough ocean bottom or simply as the waves spread out over the ocean's enormous surface. The international warning system was started in 1965, the year after tsunamis associated with a magnitude 9.2 temblor struck Alaska in 1964. It is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Member states include all the major Pacific rim nations in North America, Asia and South America, was well as the Pacific islands, Australia and New Zealand. It also includes France, which has sovereignty over some Pacific islands, and Russia. However, India and Sri Lanka are not members. "That's because tsunamis are much less frequent in the Indian Ocean," McCreary said.


The warning system analyzes earthquake information from several seismic networks, including the U.S. Geological Service. The seismic information is fed into computer models that "picture" how and where a tsunami might form. It dispatches warnings about imminent tsunami hazards, including predictions how fast the waves are traveling and their expected arrival times in specific geographic areas. As the waves rush past tidal stations in the ocean, bulletins updating the tsunami warning are issued. Other models generate "inundation maps" of what areas could be damaged, and what communities might be spared. Not all earthquakes generate tsunamis. The warning center typically does not issue warnings for earthquakes below magnitude 7.0, which are still unusually powerful events. (Article)


U.S. warning system keeps focus on Pacific – December 30, 2004

The Washington Times - At the heart of the U.S. tsunami warning system is a network of six deep-ocean monitors anchored to the Pacific floor and capable of shooting data directly to satellites hovering over Earth. If an earthquake along the ocean's floor sent a tsunami on a collision course with the West Coast, the monitors would buzz to life, kicking off a chain reaction of alarms, sirens and other warnings to people in the highest threat zones. No system as extensive exists anywhere else in the world, including on the East Coast, but scientists yesterday downplayed the probability of a tsunami slamming the Eastern seaboard.


"Big waves invading New York ... I think, are fairly inappropriate, scientifically not accurate," said Bob Morton, research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla. "I'd put that in the category of another asteroid hitting us," he said, explaining that the Atlantic Ocean lacks the major fault lines that trigger tsunamis. "The probability of that happening is so remote that it is, in fact, the reason why the United States do not have a tsunami warning system for the East Coast.  "The only place where there might be some question about would be the Caribbean area," Mr. Morton said. Although geologic activity in the Caribbean can generate earthquakes, they most likely won't be of the magnitude of those in the Indian or Pacific oceans, where fault lines in the earth's crust are most active.

A tsunami warning system similar to the one off the West Coast already is in place in the Caribbean, but scientists caution that it would only be effective for U.S. possessions in that part of the world, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The United Nations last year began calling on countries to fund an "intra-Americas tsunami warning system," said Laura Kong, director of the International Tsunami Information Center based in Hawaii. "There is an existing warning system in the Pacific because 80 to 90 percent of the earthquakes that we see that are causing tsunamis are occurring in the Pacific," she said.


But the death and destruction caused by Sunday's earthquake and tsunami in South Asia have been "so horrible" that world leaders have begun re-evaluating the need for a more comprehensive worldwide warning system, Miss Kong said. The term "tsunami" is derived from the Japanese words "tsu," which means harbor, and "nami," which means wave. Although published reports indicate that about 80 percent occur in the Pacific and around Japan, the massive waves have a rich history around the world.

A 1755 earthquake in Lisbon resulted in tsunamis that killed thousands of coastal residents in Spain, Portugal and North Africa. Waves reportedly topped 90 feet and crashed down on the islands of Indonesia, killing more than 35,000 people after the 1883 Krakatau volcanic explosion near Java, Indonesia. And huge waves spawned by a magnitude 9.2 earthquake in 1964 in Alaska killed 125 persons and led to the establishment of the federal tsunami-monitoring system, managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The NOAA system focuses on the Pacific, where the large geologic plates bump against one another other on the ocean floor, generating the sort of high-magnitude earthquakes that result in tsunamis.   Although such circumstances are not characteristic of the Atlantic, scientists have entertained worst-case tsunami scenarios for the eastern United States and called for the establishment of a better warning system.  One hypothetical involves large volcanic eruptions in the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco that would result in tsunamis affecting the Eastern seaboard.  A less likely scenario would be the one portrayed in the 1998 film "Deep Impact," which featured a 1,000-foot-high tidal wave obliterating New York City and Washington after an asteroid crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Mr. Morton and Miss Kong yesterday emphasized the roles of communication and education in prevention of a tsunami-related disaster  "Once the information gets to the local people, they have to be trained to know what to do," Mr. Morton said. Physical indicators that often are visible in the minutes before a tsunami hits have been ignored by people who aren't familiar with the warning signs, Mr. Morton said. "Local inhabitants and indigenous population live on fish, and suddenly the sea opens up and here is all this marine life available," he said. "Of course they are trying to pick up the fish, and then the water comes back in." He also cited the problem of tourists visiting tsunami-prone areas without any idea about the risks. "You can communicate all you want to," he said. "If the people don't respond, don't understand what the communication is all about, it is for naught." (Article)


U.S. East Coast to get tsunami monitors? - Congressman pushes for warning system similar to one in Hawaii – January 1, 2005


The Atlantic Coast of the United States is at risk from tsunami disasters like the one in Asia, and the nation needs an early-warning system to help prevent the loss of life along the Eastern seaboard. That according to Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who looks to introduce legislation in the next session of Congress to create such a system.


Tsunami buoy deployed in Pacific Ocean (courtesy: NOAA)


Pallone's district has the third-highest percentage of citizens of Asian descent, at 8.4 percent, according to Census figures from 2000.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, already operates a warning system based in Hawaii. It makes use of remote sensors and deep-ocean buoys to gauge tides and measure small changes in sea level. "The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center provides crucial oceanic information that protects millions of Americans on the West coast," Pallone said. "There simply is no excuse for the United States not to replicate its efforts in the Pacific Ocean by creating a similar warning center for the Atlantic Ocean."


He says most of the monitoring equipment is in place, and the government would just have to pay for the continued monitoring and collection of data. But not everyone agrees with the need for monitors in the Atlantic. "Big waves invading New York ... I think, are fairly inappropriate, scientifically not accurate," Bob Morton, research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla., told the Washington Times. "I'd put that in the category of another asteroid hitting us," he said, explaining the Atlantic lacks the major fault lines that trigger tsunamis. "The probability of that happening is so remote that it is, in fact, the reason why the United States do not have a tsunami warning system for the East Coast. The only place where there might be some question about would be the Caribbean area."


Earlier this week, the head of NOAA, Conrad C. Lautenbacher, called for a global early-warning system for disasters such as tsunamis. "It just hasn't happened, it hasn't gotten enough priority inside of each nation to support it," Lautenbacher, a retired Navy vice admiral, told the Associated Press. "It's a matter of priorities and resources. There's nothing to stop us from doing it in a technical sense." In February, 54 nations are planning to sign a U.S.-backed agreement in Brussels to share thousands of physical measurements of the Earth. Beyond tsunamis, a system for sharing thousands of measurements of the Earth is being created by 54 nations that plan to sign a U.S.-backed agreement in February in Brussels, Belgium. Lautenbacher told AP it would provide huge benefits for agriculture, energy, transportation, fisheries management, coastal-zone development and climate science. "Look at how many lives we save in the United States from hurricanes by having accurate forecasts," he said. "You could do this [for other disasters] around the world." (Article)


Indonesia to host Asian summit on tsunami disaster – January 6, 2004
Jakarta, (Malaysia National News Agency) - Indonesia will host a meeting of Asian leaders on next Thursday to discuss the earthquake and tsunami disaster in southern Asia that has killed over 120,000 people, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Friday. ''This summit is a kind of humanitarian solidarity among the international community,'' Wirajuda told reporters before attending a Cabinet meeting on the planned summit, Kazinform quotes KYODO. ''The summit will focus on how to manage the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh after the disaster,'' he added.

According to Wirajuda, at least 23 leaders of other countries and international organizations will be invited to attend the summit. Among them, he said, are leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and South Korea will be invited to attend the summit, as well as U.S. President George W. Bush and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Leaders and representatives of the European Union, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are also among the invitees.

The meeting was proposed Thursday by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand as a forum to come up with specific measures to help countries that have been struck by last Sunday's earthquake and tsunami disaster. The ASEAN member countries that have been hit by the disaster are Indonesia, Thailand and to a lesser extent Malaysia. According to Lee, the main aim of the summit is to request the United Nations to establish a special fund to help in post-disaster relief and reconstruction efforts and appoint a special representative to coordinate work to help the afflicted countries.

The gathering will also discuss other issues such as the establishment of a tsunami warning system that is currently lacking in the region. Besides the 10 ASEAN member countries, the idea is to also involve disaster-stricken countries outside Southeast Asia, such as India and Sri Lanka, and countries that could render assistance, such as China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, as well as international agencies such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization. It is not the first time that ASEAN has called for a special summit meeting to cope with a crisis. Last year, ASEAN leaders held an urgent summit to discuss how to deal with the outbreak of SARS, a flu-like disease that spread through some East Asian countries and claimed many lives.

However, that meeting did not involve such a large gathering as being proposed now. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Indonesia has been the worst hit as the quake's epicenter was in waters off Aceh Province on the northern tip of Sumatra Island. Southern Thailand and northwestern parts of Malaysia have also been affected with reports of a small number of casualties in Myanmar. Other ASEAN member countries, including Singapore, were spared. (Article)


Disaster Looms for Megacities, UN Official Says – January 18, 2005

KOBE, Japan (Reuters) - Earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters could kill millions in the world's teeming megacities and time is running out to prevent such a Jan Egeland, the U.N. Director of Disaster Relief, said many of the world's megacities, including Tokyo, are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and the poor were most at risk from a lack of investment and planning. "Perhaps the most frightening prospect would be to have a truly megadisaster in a megacity," he said on the first day of a disaster prevention conference in the Japanese city of Kobe, where an earthquake killed nearly 6,500 people a decade ago. "Then we could have not only a tsunami-style casualty rate as we have seen late last year, but we could see one hundred times that in a worst case."


The five-day conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the Kobe quake is also aiming to draw lessons from last month's quake and tsunami that killed more than 175,000 people along Indian Ocean coastlines. Megacities have a population of 10 million or more and a dense concentration of people, many of them in slums. "Time is running short for some of those megacities in Asia, in Africa and in Latin America," Egeland said. "Some of the megacities are earthquake prone, others are prone to flooding, etcetera. We have to have city planning, we have to have development, we have to have investment in the poor areas, because the poor people now are the most vulnerable," he said. "There is still time to prevent that, and we hope that some attention could be given to the megacities and not just to the countryside, which we normally associate with tsunamis and with flooding and with drought." As the world's population continues to grow, so will the size of megacities across the globe, stretching resources and the ability to cope with disasters.




According to U.N figures, the top five megacities now are the greater Tokyo area with 35.3 million people, Mexico City with 19 million, New York-Newark 18.5 million, Bombay 18.3 million and Sao Paulo 18.3 million. But by 2015, the United Nations estimates the populations of the top five will be: the greater Tokyo area at 36.2 million, Bombay 22.6 million, Delhi 21 million, Mexico City 20.6 million and Sao Paulo 20 million. Tokyo remains a great concern because of its high population, history of earthquakes and impact on the world economy if a major quake devastates the capital of the world's number-2 economy. Experts say a major quake is long overdue for Tokyo, which was flattened in 1923 by a quake and subsequent fires.


Egeland also said that last month's tsunami, while tragic, could benefit developing nations over time by alerting wealthy donor nations to the importance of spending small sums of money to save lives and property before disaster strikes. "It has really been a global eye-opener to the devastating impact of natural disasters," he said, adding that he hoped investment would not end when the drama of disaster had faded. "We have a momentum of understanding, and we have to use that as much as we can to get institutions going and get funds, not only for relief but also for early warning, for prevention and development," he said. (Article)


Bush plan expands coastal warnings – January 15, 2005

Spurred on by last month's tsunami across the Indian Ocean, the United States is expanding its own tsunami warning system to protect all of its own coastlines.WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration unveiled a $37.5 million plan yesterday to erect a tsunami warning system designed to protect both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts by mid-2007. The plan would quadruple the size of the warning network in the Pacific and erect similar safeguards for the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf coasts, officials of the White House science office said. Operating it would cost about $24.5 million a year.


Tsunami Buoys


To help monitor for waves from a tsunami, the plan envisions a network of 38 high-tech buoys attached to pressure recorders on the ocean floor. Twenty-five buoys would be added to the six now in the Pacific, including two as back-ups to existing ones off the coast of Alaska. Five new ones would be installed in the Atlantic Ocean and two in the Caribbean Sea to provide coverage for the Gulf of Mexico. None now exist in those areas. The buoys would be connected to pressure recorders below the ocean floor, and data would be relayed by satellite to scientists. The system also would include an expansion of seismic sensors.


Tsunamis can strike thousands of miles away from an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, lashing coastlines with energy built as it rushes across the ocean floor. The system, which would be overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey, is being designed so that other nations are able to add to the network. Chile already plans to add two buoys of its own. Other international efforts are under way to erect a warning system in the Indian Ocean, where an earthquake spawned a tsunami Dec. 26 that killed more than 157,000 people in Southeast Asia, South Asia and East Africa. Fifty-four nations, including the United States, are working to create a global observing system. NOAA already runs a warning system that includes 25 other countries with Pacific coastlines. Yesterday’s announcement would expand the program to cover all U.S. coastlines. The administration will present its plan for protecting coastal populations at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, sponsored by the United Nations this month in Kobe, Japan. The administration will have to ask Congress for $37.5 million to expand the warning system as well as the money to operate it, beginning in 2007. Lawmakers have indicated they will approve funding. (Article)



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