Scientist warns of major natural disaster in South East Asia

MUMBAI: Increased seismic activities have been recorded in the past one month in the Java-Sumatra-Andaman region of South East Asia, indicating possibility of a major disaster in the near future, according to a senior scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

Though volcanic activities in the region had subsided after the devastating earthquake-triggered tsunami of December 2004, more than 52 earthquakes with varying magnitude have been recorded in the last one month, D Chandrasekharam, senior professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, IIT, said.

This appears to be a natural cyclic process but there is a possibility of it triggering a major disaster, he said.

"Since December 25 2006 till January 24, the entire Java-Sumatra-Andaman island subduction zone experienced more than 51 earthquakes varying in magnitude from 4.2 to 7.5 on the Richter scale," the noted earth science expert said.

"These include two major earthquakes - 7.1 magnitude in Taiwan on December 26 and 7.5 in Molucca sea. Also 4.9 and 6.1 magnitude earthquakes were recorded in Nicobar Islands."

Majority of these events are associated with "thrust fault", an underground phenomenon that had caused the 2004 tsunami killing nearly 2.5 lakh people across several countries, including India, the scientist said.

"This only shows how active this region is seismically. Are we prepared with our tsunami warning system to alert people well in advance about any impending natural disaster?," Chandrasekharam asked.

Chandrasekharam said perhaps a mock trial should be carried out by India to test any tsunami warning system that it is installing.

The recent earthquakes should ring an alarm bell. Tsunami warning systems should alert coastal population within 10 minutes of occurrence of any major disaster, he said.

Referring to the earthquake of 8.1 magnitude that hit the Kuril islands on January 13, he said: "The Pacific tsunami system gave warning within nine minutes of the occurrence of this earthquake and lifted the warning within 20 minutes."

Similar thing happened with regard to 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan on December 26 last year.

Tsunami warning was given within 11 minutes of the earthquake and the one-meter wave triggered by it was monitored till it reached one of the Philippine islands south of Taiwan, Chandrasekharam added.
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  • Are we prepared to safeguard ourselves?

    Thanks for the report Mr. Shah. It's really informative.

    And many like me would definitely like to thank you for spreading awareness from time to time; so as to safeguard ourselves of the impending disasters that might knock anytime.

    I'd like to know if there is a proper Disaster Management Cell in India today so as to cope with any eventualities. I'm referring not to its existence but would like to know if its 'functional'.

    Moreover, are there measures taken by the government or any body to educate the masses or any regulatory body to see that proper building norms for natural calamities like earthquake are strictly followed.